Pentecost Reflection

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My 70th birthday fell on the eve of Pentecost, the celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples and the church, the community of the Holy Spirit. On the day I have often used, the medium of dance, the appearance of red balloons, and the breath to inflate them, for breath is another word for “spirit” in the New Testament, and children playing with the gyrations of poi. I have always fancied using fire poi in swivelling circles. All of these is to capture the dynamic of the Holy Spirit, the breath and wind of God alive in the world!

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. And so it is with everyone who is given life by the Spirit. (John 3:8) I heard a mediocre sermon the other day about the Ascension which failed to stir very much in me. Then the preacher climbed down from the pulpit and the stopped at the lectern, and, as though he had forgotten something important, and said: “Here is a quotation from the Little Prince,” Here is my secret. It is very simple: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” Ah, I thought if only he had started with that! Then things opened up for me. What are those invisible things from the heart, and you may make your own reflective meditation on this. I thought of the following:

Prayer/beauty/light/forgiveness/enduring unconditional love/honesty/inspiration/influence/joy/dedication/intuition/faithfulness/desire/trust/faith/nurturing/empathy/compassion/honour/friendship. You may want to write about each of those themes in your spiritual journal.

How is the Holy Spirit working in the world to bring about the ubuntu of humankind? I think there is the nudging of the Holy Spirit in the lives of great leaders and movements in the world, and there is also the nudging of our hearts, the hearts and minds of the ordinary people; to phone someone, say something, find something, acknowlege someone, encourage someone, listen to someone, and to act with compassion. There are little circles on the pond of the world that can grow, joining other circles of many peoples and cultures and faiths, that can embrace the world.

I have attached two poems on Holy Spirit which I found I had written in 2001.

May the rains arrive soon.

He breathed on them
St John 21:20-25
Jesus said again, “Peace be with you! As the Father sent me, so I send you”. Then he breathed on them, saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit!”
You gently, very gently breathed on the disciples
The breath that woke the creation out of chaos
That set the pulse of day and night on its course
That brought the peace of Eden,
The dawn of freedom,
And a reaching out for the tree of knowledge,
Which brought beauty and suffering,
And left us broken.

The disciples gently breathe in your spirit
And feel a peace of the first day
Awakening in them,
A new poetry coming
For a new day
That already has an ending
And a power like a wind,
Present everywhere,
To move us beyond faith and hope
Into the ocean of love
Bob Commin

The Day of Pentecost
Acts 2: 1-13
We are all together in one place,
Though divided in our expectation,
Caught between waiting and irrelevance.

A driving wind breaks lose
Above our heads and a noise like a sea whirls
Through and over us until the whole house thunders
With the vibrations, as fire begins to tear through us
And flames leap into life like tongues
Bursting from the creation,
Then coming to rest
With a feminine gentleness
Upon each of us.

Something is bubbling and bursting in me,
Like the birthing of a new spirit,
Searching and finding a voice that cannot speak its praises
Fast enough, like a well springing into life,
Leaving me elated and babbling
In a language of sounds and sighs.

I am filled with new wine,
And am dancing in the market place
And speaking the tongue of love
As others coming rushing towards me.

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The Race to the Tomb by Bob Commin

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The Race to the Tomb

Mary Magdalene came running
She came crying and running
She cried: ‘Peter! John!
They have taken the body.
The stone is rolled away.

The huge stone, taller than a man
Wider than a team of oxen,
Rolled away. The tomb empty,
the body of Jesus gone.

Peter looked up,
saw the stress and tears in Mary’s face,
and began to run to the tomb.
Peter was running swift as a deer
His cloak a sail in the wind.

John was behind the house,
heard Mary’s piercing cry
and came running too,
like an athlete, strong and swift

Peter heard his footsteps,
then the wind of his presence
as he passed him on the road.

What did Peter see and hear
on this crisp dewy morning
as he rushed to the tomb?

He saw donkeys scatter from his path
And he remembered…(What did he remember?)
Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey
‘Hosanna, Hosanna
Save us! Save us!’ the people sang.

Hens and chicks scurried from his steps
cheep cheep, cheep, cheep.
A cock crowed from a rooftop
Cockildoodil doo
And he remembered…(What did he remember?)
denying he knew Jesus, three times,
‘I do not know the man’

Doves fluttered into the air
Coo cooooo coo, coo cooooo coo
he saw a fledgling with a fresh twig in its mouth
And he remembered…(What did he remember?)
Noah’s dove and the rainbow of a new world.

He ran past a twisted sycamore tree
twisted into the shape of a cross
And he remembered …(What did he remember?)
Three crosses on the Friday sky
And tears filled his eyes.

He turned as he reached the Rams Horn Inn
And heard drunken laughter.
He saw men throwing their dice
three sixes and a four
two sixes and a two
And he remembered …(What did he remember?),
Soldiers dicing for the clothes of Jesus
beneath the cross.

He crossed the field of bleating lambs
baa, baa, baa, baa, baa.
And remembered …(What did he remember?)
the sad Passover meal,
the bread and the wine of the kingdom.

He reached the garden,
saw the tomb with the stone rolled away
saw John standing outside,
just looking in,
panting and staring.

He rushed past John,
into the darkened tomb,
He saw the grave clothes lying on a stone
the body was gone.
He remembered the words of Jesus:
‘On the third day he will rise again.’
In that moment he realized,
Jesus is risen.
He took a deep breath
a long calm breath.
Then he turned around
and walked away from the tomb.
He saw an eagle with outstretched wings
Rise up into the morning sky.

Bob Commin

Thomas the twin

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Ever thought of Thomas’s twin
Where doors are shut in the upper room
The twins, faith and doubt
Of science’s fact, of faith’s trust
How the one leaps into the mystery of the other
How I trust the one, deny the other
But one is the mirror of the other
Who is the twin I see in the mirror
It is the Christ, the becalmed Self
Hands of my sister, side of my brother
Bob Commin

Poem reflections on the Resurrection

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Poems on the Resurrection

1
You caught them by surprise
On the third morning
At the day’s awakening.
Shedding oil and spices in the way
The women run in fear

2
He sees the early morning
Emptiness of the tomb.
Felt the warmth of the linen cloths
And the moth-like pulse across his brow
He is risen now.

3
Mary looks into the darkness
The tomb of all her sadness
Facing her fears
she gazes,
Until angels shimmer in a dance of light.

4
Mary is not mistaken
thinking you to be the gardener.
The earthiness of your presence
Standing there
Clutching the shoots of new life

5
Mary has found you
And with joy mounting all sorrow
Reaches out to hold you
“Do not cling to me”
There was no returning
To the master she once knew.

6
When you came to Thomas, the Twin
you came to all of us
We celebrate the twin in us
faith and doubt.
Questions fly kites whose cords run
To wells of faith in the deep earth.

7
On the road to Emmaus
You wander like a minstrel
into all our conversations
restoring our past
and we become the tellers of the future

8
What a surprise for Peter
He has had enough and will return to work.
“I am going fishing”
Safely in the smell of the sea he lets down the nets
And there you are on the shore smiling like the Buddha

9
In the resurrection appearances
They know you in the breaking of the bread
In the sharing of a hearty meal
You are remembered
You are re-membered.

10
In the Upper Room you came to your disciples
And breathed on them.
Like a lover blowing a kiss
And in that moment
You gave them the Guide

11
You rose on the third day
I rise everyday
And because of you
My story will meander through the eons
Until love is worked out in me

12
Now this beautiful body of the gardener
That walks through doors
That carries its story in hands and side
Will I get one?
And can I choose?
Will you rather who fixed broken bodies
Let mine find its fullest beauty

Bob Commin 2015

Meditations on the Way of the Cross

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Meditations on the Way of the Cross
I have always been fascinated with the service of the Stations of the Cross. It is visual and can be artistically appealing. Further it involves a walk, not unlike a labyrinth meditation. My daughter and I brought together the visual and the aural (text) in a little book, Meditations on the Way of the Cross. Those who know the service may enjoy using the prayers that follow at each of the stations. I wrote this with young people in mind.

Prayers from Meditations on the Way of the Cross by Bob Commin
1 Jesus is condemned to die
Like a tall tree
I reach up into the sky
And receive God’s power from above
Like the sun emptying light into me.
With outstretched arms
I embrace the world
Compassionately
And see a wilderness
Become an Eden of
flowers before me.
Amen

2 Jesus accepts the cross
I face the cross
I see the arms of Jesus
Outstretched
In love for me.
I take up the cross
And do the difficult jobs.
I carry the burdens of others,
But I know
That Jesus carries me.
Amen

3 Jesus falls for the first time
When we fall Lord,
Help us to know
That there is no falling
Beyond the boundaries
Of your presence and love.
In our pain and vulnerability
Continue to come to us
And help us to see you
In the compassionate community
That desires our healing,
In the fellowship of Mary
And Jesus Christ
Her son, our Lord.
Amen

4 Jesus meets his mother
Dear Lord Jesus,
Who can describe Mary’s sorrow
As she comforts you
On the way to the cross?
This is the “sword that pierces
Her heart.”
She will not hold you back.
You have made your choice.
Lord of the crossroads,
Help us to know;
When to comfort our children,
When to protect them,
And when to let go.
Amen

5 Simon of Cyrene carries the cross
Lord Jesus Christ
Simone of Cyrene,
An African pilgrim,
Helped to carry your cross
Through jeering crowds
And threatening soldiers.
Help me a child of Africa,
Not be afraid.
Let me hear when you call
And let me take up the burdens of others
To walk the road with them.
Amen

6 Veronica wipes the face of Jesus
Lord Jesus Christ,
Let me respond freely
With love and compassion
Like Veronica, the woman
Who came out of the crowd
To wipe your perspiring face
And carried away in her heart
The image of your face.
Let me also be a bearer of your image
Outwardly in my actions
And inwardly in my heart.
Amen

7 Jesus falls for the second time
Confessio

You will hold me
And I will fall
I, David, will shatter into a thousand pieces
So small
Lost in every garden I have been
I will fall through the garden hose
I will squeeze mud between my toes
I will become the beggar at my gate
And refuse the beggar food.
The people I love I learn to hate
I will dig a grave for my friends
I will take money from the dead thief’s hand
I will lie with the liar
And I will rise with the fowl
See on my back a burden I carry
It burns with the image
Of the blackness of you.

I will fall
And you will hold me,
Even in the abyss of
Self.
Amen

8 The women of Jerusalem

Dear Lord Jesus,
You fill our lives with activity,
So that each day brings new explorations,
And fills us with wonder and thanksgiving.
When we become the patient
And actions cease,
Be with us in the waiting
And calm our fears
Let us sense your guidance
And come to life
In new and surprising ways.
Amen

9 Jesus falls for a third time

Lord I am in the belly of the whale.
Things are very dark now,
There seems to be no way out
And no way up.
I wander blindly in this agonising deep,
Submerged in a sea of troubles
There is no energy or beauty or delight;
Only a dullness.
I can only wait for you Lord.
Spew me out with such a blast,
Send me streaming to the surface
And spread me into a fountain
Of pleasure and response
To dance in the light of the world.
Amen
10 Jesus is stripped

Dear Lord Jesus
Thank you for our health.
Through our bodies,
Eyes and ears, taste, touch and smell,
We can enjoy your world.
When we are ailing
We receive your healing
Through the love and care of others.
Help us in turn
To care for those who are in need of healing.
Amen

11 Jesus is nailed to the cross

Dear Lord Jesus,
Your body shudders with pain
As nails tear through flesh and bone.
Pilate’s misguided powers pin you
To a wooden cross of earth
To stop the river of love in you,
But you become a great baobab tree
Spreading blessings into the heavens
And drawing us into its cool shade
To heal us with your love potion.
We feel a new spring surging
Through the wood of your cross.
Amen

12 Jesus dies on the cross
Dear Lord Jesus
Amidst all your pain
You still commend yourself
Into the father’s care
And so you die.
Dying fills us with fear
It challenges all that we believe.
We spend years running from it.
We struggle not to hand ourselves
Over to its darkness.
To rest in you is more than sleep,
It is the final trust.
When our time comes
Give us a good death.
Amen

13 Jesus is laid in a tomb
Dear Lord Jesus
Thank you for the men and women
Who received your body,
The body they loved;
That resonated your personality.
Now they will honour it
And give it a proper burial.
They will cherish your memory
And grow through their sadness.
Let us give due honour to those who die around us
And cherish the memory of them.
Let us be present for the dying.
Amen

14 Conclusion
The Coming of Light
There is a darkness
Descending upon the world.

But deep within a tomb,
A womb of earth,
A light glows with intensity,
It is the light of our salvation
Consuming the darkness;
The light of new birth
Of the new day.
Amen

 

Julian of Norwich

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All will be well
And all things will be well
And all manner of things will be well.
Julian of Norwich

We have been Looking at some of the words and thoughts of some of the great teachers of prayer within the Christian tradition, at our Wednesday Eucharists during Lent. Here is the talk and presentation by Heather Scott, one of our layministers on Dame Julian of Norwich.

Julian of Norwich
Julian of Norwich lived in the late fourteenth century, during the time of Chaucer and the flowering of the English language, during the time of the Black Death which claimed a third of the population of England. It was the time of great famine and the Peasants’ Revolt, which incidentally was led by a former priest, and the 100 Year War, as English kings laid claim to the French throne. – A time when feudalism was disintegrating and people were deserting villages and failing estates to seek opportunities in towns and cities.
It was a time of turmoil in the church, and the death by burning of John Wycliffe, scholar, philosopher and translator of the Bible into English, who was one of the forerunners of the Protestant reformation.
I noted that, in her writings, Julian often refers to Holy church, – ‘as Holy Church teaches’, and I wondered if she was a bit worried that her writings would get her into trouble too. She is the first woman writer in English whose work survives.
Other spiritual writings of the time were the Cloud of Unknowing – author unknown, the Scale of Perfection by Walter Hilton, and The Force of Character.
The common theme in all their writings was the loving relationship between God and the souls if the just, in an age when indulgences were big business.
Julian’s writings, ‘The Revelations of Divine Love’ were the result of visions, or ‘showings’ as she calls them, that she had during a severe illness, which she had in fact prayed for as an aid to her dedication to, and worship of God, asking through her illness to be granted three wounds: true contrition, kind compassion and an earnest longing for God.
She writes that she had also asked God that she would be able to remember Christ’s passion in a special way – and her writings include in detail these visions and emotions accompanying them.
Her experience determined the course of the rest of her life.
She wrote down ‘the showings’ soon after they happened, and spent the next twenty years delving prayerfully into the meaning of the visions, her ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ being the expanded result. She wrote to pass on the riches that she had received from God to those she called her ‘even Christians’ ‘that they be sped on the way of Salvation’. She writes for ‘God-lovers who find in their hearts this love-longing’, which is placed in their hearts by God and satisfied by God, asserting that, as we reach up to God, he reaches down to us.
Julian became an anchoress, living a solitary life of prayer and silence and self-discipline, in accommodation attached to the parish church of St Julian, in Norwich.
Norwich had a rich spiritual life, with many churches and religious houses, and it is thought that Julian may have lived the Rule of St Benedict. It was on a busy trade route, so she was not out of touch with current affairs, and penitents and pilgrims came to her for spiritual counselling. If my experience with the enclosed order at Masite is anything to go by, this would have been a very important part of her ministry, to pass on the love and acceptance that she had experienced in God.

There are echoes of Scripture in much of her writing. There are progressively deeper insights into the meaning of ‘suffering with the crucified Christ’, reminiscent of Paul’s prayer : what it means to share His sufferings, moulded into the pattern of His death. I found her writing on pain and suffering particularly interesting in the light on the debate around assisted dying.
She writes about sin and damnation, pain and suffering in the world, and returns again and again to the mercy, love and power of God, in which we can believe. – “All will be well’.
It is one of her most often quoted writings, which she includes in various ways.
This is one. God assures her:

All will be well
And all things will be well
And all manner of things will be well.
Julian of Norwich

Her awareness of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in all of God’s work with mankind comes through all of her writing. One revelation that she has is of the Trinity in the suffering Christ – all of God is involved, from before the beginning of time, in the redemption of man.
She gives the picture of, as Adam falls, Christ falling into the womb of Mary, which I found very powerful.
Julian speaks of Christ as Mother, and sees Jesus’ passion as the birth pangs of a mother. He suffered that we might be born, He nourishes us and cares for us and loves us as a mother loves her child.

Meditation using hazelnut reading and ‘We are created to be God’s dwelling-place’.

I saw that He is ceaselessly at work in everything, so well, so wisely, so powerfully, that it surpasses anything that we could imagine, expect or think.
He that was highest and most worthy was totally rejected and utterly despised. But the love that caused Him to suffer all this as far surpasses His agony as heaven is above earth. For His suffering was accomplished in time, through the activity of love, but love has no beginning and is and ever shall be without end.
We are His joy. We are His reward. We are His honour. We are His crown. This is so great a joy to Jesus that He disregards His suffering, His bitter Passion, and cruel and shameful death.
Contrition makes us clean
Compassion renders us ready
And desire for God makes us worthy.
So shame is transformed into joy and glory.
For our courteous Lord does not wish his creatures to lose hope. Our failure does not prevent Him from loving us. Peace and love are always present, living and labouring within us.

In our true Mother, Jesus, our life is grounded, in uncreated wisdom which foresees all, along with the Father’s almighty power and the Holy Spirit’s sovereign goodness.
By taking upon Himself our nature He restored us to life, and by dying upon the cross He carries us to eternal life.
And from that moment until the end of time He nurtures us and helps us on, just as the great loving concern of motherhood wishes, until we are brought to our Father’s joy. In that joy we will be shown: All will be well, and you yourself shall see that every manner of thing will be well.
As truly as God is our Father, so truly God is our Mother.
He reveals this in all things, especially in these sweet words:
It is I.
That is to say, It is I, the power and goodness of the Fatherhood,
It is I, The wisdom of the Motherhood.
It is I, The light and grace that is all blessed Love.
It is I, The Trinity
It is I, The Unity.
I am the highest good of all manner of things.
I am the one who makes you love.
I am the one who makes you long. It is I, the fulfilment of all true desires.

Do you wish to understand your Lord’s meaning?
Understand truly: Love was His meaning.
Who revealed it to you? Love.
What did He show you? Love.
Why did He show it? For Love.
Hold firmly to this and you will learn and know more of this. But you will never know or learn anything other than this. Ever.
It is God’s eternal will that we remain secure in love, and peaceful and restful as He is to us. Just as He is to us, so too is His will we should be to ourselves and to our fellow Christians.

Thoughts of Christmas 2014

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Jessica's Birthday and Christmas 2014 209A child asked her mother: “Mommy is God magic?” How close to St John, I thought, not magic but mystery.
In the beginning was the Word – the word is Love. God is Love- St John; Three things that will last for every, Faith, Hope, and Love. But the greatest of these is Love. Then we shall be known. Only Love can really know us.

Christmas is about Identity- God has become human for us. God has been born in every one of us. God is being born in us all the time. A Medieval theologian once said:

God is giving birth constantly. Not only physical in nature surrounding us, but also spiritual, in the inner soul of everything alive. God does not stop being the creator after physical birth. It goes on and on in giving birth. So the soul that has its roots in the God, is being born constantly, is like a new born baby constantly, as innocent and fresh as the One in the cradle of Bethlehem. Meister Echardt

Christmas is about connection- relationships. Not so much about presents, but about giving each other Presence of time and attention. At Christmas we seem to gather around us the most significant people in our lives. People we love, those who care about us. We may of course be asleep to this truth, too exhausted, too busy to appreciate this, or on the cell phone, or an asleep teenager. 15 of us sat down to dinner. Sounds lovely – if there is presence. And an awareness of a greater Presence, a presence that lovingly undergirds us all.

Christmas is about Wonder, awe – we see it in children-how we need to become a child again.

What children say about Christmas! I came across these a few years ago:
A Sunday school teacher asked the children to draw a picture of the Holy family. Many had drawn in the conventional way – the holy family in the manger, the hoy family riding on a mule. All rather straight.
Then she saw something interesting and asked a boy to explain his drawing. Which showed an airplane with four heads sticking out of the windows.
I can understand you drew three of the heads to show Joseph, Mary and Jesus, but who is the other person?
“Oh,” answered the boy, “That is Pontius Pilot!”
MY three-year-old son was learning the Christmas story at nursery school ready for the nativity play. He came home and told me very proudly that: “Jesus was born in a stabiliser.”

A FRIEND’S two little girls were looking at a picture of the Virgin Mary holding Baby Jesus.
“That’s Mary,” said the older girl, “and that’s her baby Jesus in her arms.” “Where’s Jesus’s dad then?” asked her little sister.
“Oh he is the one taking the picture,” replied her sister.

Give young people your presence this Christmas, find a genuine way to connect with them.
Christmas is about the other, the stranger, the refugee, the stranger, the other.

The world is a torn place. We hear and see so much of the abuse women and children, terror haunts the market places of so many countries, greed and corruption eats away at our hard won democracy and way of life. Millions of people are refugee’s in flight from their own people and countries.

But for us the message of Christmas is realistic, good inspiring news. God has entered into us, to encourage and raise us up. First to break through our own hardened hearts and habits, so that we can change from the inside. We first, we can be the change and presence that we want to see in the world.
Christmas seems to be saying that there is a river under the river of life. A spring of fresh creative energy within us, that we can tap. That will flow in and through us, and open us up to new and creative responses to ourselves and each other. So clear the muck, open up the well points.
This is happening to us now. And we must take it forward into our lives!
For our good, our family’s Good, our country’s good and the world’s good.

“The true source of joy is love – love of God, love of beauty, love of wisdom, love of another human being, it does not matter which. It is all one love, a joyful awareness of dissolving boundaries of our ordinary narrow self, of being with the reality beyond, of being made whole.
So while you are enjoying the company of your loved ones this Christmas, take a moment or two to glimpse anew into the stable of your being. Look again with the eyes of a child, with the eyes of wonder. Reconnect with the profound simplicity of it all. God is Love. ” Billy Kennedy

For me the poet e e cummings comes closest to the meaning of Christmas and incarnation when he says in a poem about love:

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

This is what God is saying to us in the Child of Bethlehem: You matter to me, I I carry your heart, I carry in in my heart. This is what we can say to others.

Bob Commin