Body Theology….Evidence of a life lived.

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If I wanted to describe my outlook on life, I would use a phrase … I celebrate life in all its fullness’. I know it’s a strange phrase, as most of us would reply ‘and so say all of us’. But what does that mean for us as Christians …when we follow a God whose body was mutilated and tortured on a cross through the death of Jesus., Some people may look at their own bodies and feel shame, disgust, and revulsion.

We need to reflect and reclaim what that means for us in the light of ‘Body Theology’.

Our bodies are how we live and move within God’s world. As St Teresa of Avila clams … God has no body but ours, no feet but ours, no hands but ours, ours is the body with which Christ moves.

So what will Christ feel and see if he moves about in my Body!

Well after three hip operations, two children, a life of enjoying good company, friendships, food and fellowship, pneumonia and various illnesses …this very rounded body is holding out!  Nevertheless, my Body is sacred … with its scars and cellulite, and spots and menopausal symptoms.

My body tells a story of life that I have lived in all of its fullness… some have been painful memories which i would want to forget, where ‘abuse’ has tortured my inner being, yet I want to celebrate God dwelling in me  .

I have loved passionately and deeply, with all of my being, and some scars are deeply hidden, but to love and trust someone, to give one’s Body over to someone else to care for whether friend , relative or lover is incredibility humbling….. God delights in Love

I have played energetically, seeing the sights and sounds of different cultures, different traditions, and different relationships, all have enriched me in many surprising ways, pushing my Body to its limit( for me ) ! … God delights in my Playfulness

I have lived rejoicing in my womanhood, experiencing  being a single mother, breast feeding my children, the menopausal symptoms which can overtake my Body, forgoing food to feed my then two young children; snacking and not eating properly is still a habit I have not relinquished. … God delights in my Faithfulness

I have worked hard, as a nurse, teacher, friend, colleague, and now a minister, and have given 150%, which yes has taken a toll on my Body, through tiredness and exhaustion… God delights in my commitment.

Yet, my Body is a place where God has delighted in all my experiences, and still delights. My Body is still the place of discovery, still the place where God chooses to dwell, and be with me as I explore the world around me.

So… I am not thin , so…. I don’t exercise , yes have yo- yo dieted for most of my life, but God’s Spirit dwells in me and delights in my Body that brings fullness into my life.

I have LGBT and disabled friends who have over the years helped me reflect on my Body, when some have had gender reassignment, some in wheelchairs and to them I will be forever grateful. Body Theology speaks to the deep inner self within us. It bubbles with excitement as we push our boundaries of discovery.

My physical, psychological and sexuality are how I live my life in all of its fullness, and I give glory to God for my experiences so far, and for ones that I have yet to encounter.

What will Christ feel and see in your Body ?

Glorious God

Our bodies have been changed

over the years through disease and injury,

Yet you choose to lovingly dwell within us.

Help us to Love our Bodies that tell the story of the life we have lived

To sense the delight you have when we discover new experiences

And when our Bodies give up on us

Journey with us until we become a new creation.

Amen

I am grateful for the beautiful images of the’ abundant Goddess’ which have helped me explore my own Body Theology.

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Julian of Norwich and the ‘three windows’

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A little known fact about Julian of Norwich is that she was the first woman to write a book in English. Again I am astounded how a woman, an anchoress could influence the community and the world she lived in, especially in a male dominated society….. when she was incarcerated in a ‘cell’.

In her ‘cell’, or stone room,  she had three windows where she encountered God.

The first window was where she received the sacraments, as the window looked directly into the church. The priest would visit her with the ‘daily office’, and she could observe the church in worship.

The second window was where she received Food and Water to maintain her existence and also where the carers removed her waste. She kept in fairly good health throughout her time in the cell .

The third window was where people from the local community came to seek her advice on matters which concerned them. She chatted to them and formed deep relationships with individuals. Her fame spread and was visited by many wealthy and poor people.

Remembering that this was the Middle ages , where the plague had ravaged families and death and disease were rife , Julian maintained that God was with them  in there suffering . It was in this world of chaos, that she utters the words .. All shall be well, and all shall be … and all manner of things shall be well. This is in direct opposition to what the male priests were telling the parishioners; she stood her ground, as she had gained respect being an anchoress. The thought of God being close to people was a new concept, and Julian encouraged this as she shared her Theology , as God as Father, God as Mother , God as Creator and God  Suffering  just has she witnessed God’s people suffering.

This is even more remarkable, as although little is known about Julian (this is not her true name, but the name she took from the Church she attended ) she could have been a nun or a laywoman , maybe a widow who lost her child and husband to the Plague. She was extremely ill when she was 30yrs old, and it was when she recovered she wrote her book ‘Revelations of Divine Love’ , but her faith in God never wavered . She instilled Hope to people where suffering and pain was their constant companion.

Learning about Julian’s life again, has helped me reflect on ‘the windows’ I use to encounter God . The church to which I belong, the people care for me and support me, the friends and strangers I meet along life’s diverse path, the joys and sorrows that Life brings.

I hope I am bold enough to speak with authority about my faith as Julian did … to articulate my faith to encourage ,to challenge , to boldly go where many fear to tread .. and with God’s spirit as my companion.. all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.

Prayer

Let our God of Goodness be enough for you.

Ask for nothing less,

for if you ask for less than God

you will always be left wanting.

In God:

All shall be well

and all shall be well

and all manner of things shall be well.

(Julian: Revelations         of Love)

Walking on the edge

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Every year, ministers in the United Reformed Church attend a Spring/ Summer school. This year is an opportunity to consider with colleagues what is means to be part of the ‘Leadership team’ in URC churches in the 21st century. .

The speaker‘s opening words caught my attention, ‘Leadership ..  is a risky place to be ,for  if you are too near the edge you can fall off into chaos, and if you are not on the edge you solidify and become stagnant’.

In past years, church members have been associated with the Church from cradle to grave ( many  over 60 and 70 years),  absorbed faith knowledge and then repeated it. Hence the phrase, it’s always worked, it was fine for me, so why change ? Change can mean uncertainty and anxiety, but if we are to be on the edge, then change must happen. By that I mean not just about Church buildings, but about a change of heart and understanding of what it means to be a disciple and be a relevant church in today’s society.

The question was posed that being ‘church on the edge’, means that we must appreciate that society has changed. In the last 40yrs, Medical knowledge has increased, so too has Technology, Engineering and of course  Theology. We live in an age where we have a choice, and vital to our choosing is discussion and discernment. Alongside that is journeying with people, who are trying to find out what God means to them, through discussion not blind acceptance.

Its seems to me that being in ‘Shared Leadership in Churches (and by that I just don’t just mean  the minister but the whole appointed Eldership as well) can easy be perceived as ‘Management’, however management is about problem solving. Leadership asks the question .. why are we doing this and is it the right thing to further the Kingdom of God..

For the church to have a viable future, the Gospel must not just be spoken about , but to be lived out, where forgiveness and inclusivity changes lives, and so transformation to hope and wholeness can be visibly seen.

I have no answers, save that I know that I believe the people of God need to know they are beloved and treasured by God, and that the rebuilding of trust, restoring confidence and renewing of hope must happen. I am grateful for David Grosch Miller for his thoughtful reflections, however he left a challenging call to all of us … we are called to be, not just pastors…. but prophets. I am grateful he used Moses in Exodus as an example of Leadership, with all his faults, flawed humanity and hesitations, he trusted God.

God who led your people out of slavery to a land flowing with milk and honey,

We pray that you would lead us to the edge,

Not so we can fall into chaos, but we can see the true landscape ahead of us

Be in our minds that we may reflect on issues of faith with clarity

Be in our mouths that we may speak words that bring wholeness

Be in our steps , so we may walk alongside the edge with confidence knowing you are there to hold us and guide us.

We ask this in Jesus name

Amen

Epiphany.. Wisdom v Common Sense

There is a story in Thailand,… a king gave a poor man a gift of a white elephants, the elephants could not be disposed of , they could not work and were very expensive to keep . The recipient of the elephant and everyone in the village knew that the gift was dangerous and useless. Yet the white elephant in that country symbolized regal power strength. It was given as a mark of respect.

Our travellers from the East are wise men, for sure; everyone agrees on that. They might even be rich men, or kings, if the legends are true. But that’s not how the text introduces them, is it?—”rich men from the East.” No, it is very clear: “In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we have observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’”

Let us cut straight to the point. Being wise is not the same as having common sense. To search for the Christ is the epitome of wisdom. To underestimate King Herod is the epitome of stupid.

The first people to hear this story would have caught the supreme irony at work in the telling, because they would have remembered what it was like, when King Herod was on the throne. Herod was one of the cruellest dictators ever to pass through the Middle East, a man so paranoid about succession that he had his own sons executed, to keep them from inheriting his throne.Being wise is not the same as having common sense. You can be wonderfully clever at astrophysics and yet not have an ounce of being street smart.

The truth is that earnest seekers only ever have part of the truth. The pursuit of wisdom, the search for the Christ, is a lifelong journey. It unfolds over time and with a lot of help. We will, as the “wise men” demonstrate, make a lot of mistakes—really stupid ones.

May God send us the dreams, the spirit, the wise ones to guide our journeys.

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God of wisdom ,

Christ our morning star that never sets

Help us to wise people

and to follow you.

Amen