|Pen and Ink Reflections||
One of the most memorable, transforming, and ultimately deeply poignant sermons I ever heard was at theological college, over thirty years ago, when I was what we now call a formation student. The address was given by an American student who was with us for a short while. It was on the subject of Peter’s dream in the Acts of the Apostles and the remarkable turnaround in the early Church which we hear about in Acts chapter 15 today. Far from being remote events, my fellow student brought them alive in an intensely powerful way. This, you may understand, was during the last tumultuous days of controversy before the ordination of women in the Church of England and in the first real stirrings of pain and freedom among LGBTIQ+ people across the world. Yet, challenging though those things were, and still are some even today, they are nothing, my fellow student pointed out, to the radical transformation we find in these texts from Acts. For centuries, almost forever really, we, the Gentiles, with our characteristics and our lifestyles, lay outside full inclusion in the body of God’s community. Yet Paul, Peter, and even James, the bulwark of Jewish Christian foundations, came to welcome us as equals in the life of salvation. In contrast, how much lesser such a conversion is asked of us, said my fellow student. So can we, as Peter, as Church, embrace today those who also who, like the Gentiles long ago, not only come to us, but even flourish among us, against the odds, against our human-fashioned, provisional rules?...
"How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing"
Desire - longing - this is what is at the heart of the spiritual journey; of the relationship between any one of us, and God. This is what it is all about. This is why we have our Lenten programs, and our great festivals and our Eucharist.
God desires us. God longs for us and for every living thing that God has made. God longs for us with passion and intensity and single focus. But much, if not most of the time, we live as though that were not the case. The great Saint Teresa of Avila was spot on when she wrote, "All difficulties in prayer can be traced to one cause; praying as if God were absent."
God longs for us to spend time in silence and stillness and presence. God longs to gather us, to protect us, to nurture us as a mother hen gathers her chicks. Now when we hear that beautiful feminine image for God, two things happen. The first is that we reject it out of hand, because we are so used to hearing God talked about in exclusively masculine terms, that even today we still tend to brush the picture aside. The second thing that happens is that we tend to think, 'oh how sweet. We are like little fluffy chicks and God is mothering us and looking after us and it's all really lovely." Well yes - and if you have never thought of yourself as a little vulnerable fluffy thing in need of God's tenderest care then that is the challenge of that picture for you to take away and pray with this week. But there is yet more to that image...
sermons and reflections from Penny Jones & Jo Inkpin,