|Pen and Ink Reflections||
For some of my early years, my heart would sink when I was invited to join a bible study group. My mind would start screaming, and my body sometimes even began twitching. Maybe you, or others you know, have had that kind of experience - of bible studies, or another avenue of faith exploration? For me, it wasn’t that the people who asked me were often a little unctuous, or patronising about my existing faith. Sometimes they were wonderful, beautiful, humble, with an open and expansive love of God and others. It was just that so many bible studies seemed so very narrow. Where they weren’t working with extraordinary assumptions about sin, God, and the way the world is created, they were often, frankly, simply a little boring. My experience in many Christian groups was that the scriptures were typically read as if they were flat in nature: straightforward and easy to interpret. This was because simplistic frameworks, or sets of formulae, were constantly applied to every passage. After I’d been to one bible study, I pretty much picked up the central message. Just repeating it again and again seemed neither interesting nor life-giving. When it was full of shame and guilt-inducing misdirection it was particularly alienating. Yet what an awful misuse that is of the Bible, and not least, Jesus’ own use of Scripture…
Jesus asks his disciples ‘Have you understood all this?’ and they answer 'Yes.” And I find myself saying, ‘really?!’ I rather think that in fact the disciples had the somewhat glazed expression that I had this week, when the NBN technician was trying to help me factory re-set my modem password! My 'yes’ really meant, actually I haven’t the faintest idea what you are talking about, but I trust you to work it out anyway”...
Today I want to introduce you to one of the most notable mystics and teachers of my Christian tradition, Hildegard of Bingen. Hildegard lived in the twelfth century in Germany and for many years her work was forgotten, returning to prominence only in the late twentieth century. She was not only a woman of prayer and vision, but also a composer, artist, theologian and herbalist,whose approaches to cosmology, medicine and music have many resonances in our own day. She is rightly regarded as one of Germany's first scientists and doctors and her 2000 herbal remedies are still being studied today. She has also left us 77 unique musical compositions that reveal her as the first female composer of note and a remarkable collection of art works...
Epiphany 6 Year A 16 February 2014 by The Revd Dr Jonathan Inkpin
One of my favourite images of reconciliation is that of Uncle Bob Randall, the multi-talented Yankunytjatjara elder from central Australia. ‘Spirituality’, he wrote in his autobiography ‘Songman’:
‘Spirituality is the ultimate answer to reconciliation in Australia and everywhere else in the world. Loving ourselves, our families, our neighbours, our countrymen and every other living thing is the reason we are here on earth. If we follow the ripple in the pond when a stone hits the water, we can easily see that the entire pond is affected by that one little stone. If the stone represents love, and it drops somewhere in our universe, that love will send its ripple through the entire universe. All the peoples, birds, animals, insects, plants, trees and rocks will in some way be affected by it. It is the same with anger and hate. We must choose which ripples we wish to send into the universe.’
- I really love that image. I used it often in my peace and reconciliation work for the National Council of Churches (in Australia): partly for its intrinsic beauty and wisdom; partly as it chimed in with my own approach to peace making and reconciliation; and, not least, because it is a wonderful Australian expression of the spirit of Jesus in what we call ‘the Sermon on the Mount’, another reading from which we hear in our worship this Sunday...