Monday, 31 January 2011

Hedge Church - Reflections for the 30th January to 5th February 2011

Hedge Church Posts - January 30th to 5th February 2011

Sunday 30th January – Be in communion with all that is!

The Universe has been singing its song and dancing its dance for over 13 Billion years! On this “Sun” day we are being called to enter anew into the wonder of our ancestors, who gazed into the night sky, sat around desert campfires, ventured into the glory of high places, understood the forest and attuned to the divine presence within all things.

As dawn broke they rejoiced at the Sun’s awakening bounty and its promise of warmth and gift. Around them was danger, life in all its fullness – food to hunt, grasses to shape into bread, fruits to eat and ferment for glorious celebration.

So - on this Sunday we are being called afresh, in our time and place, to walk the way of that other “Son of Man”, who once broke bread and shared wine with his friends in communion with the whole of creation and life.

Monday 31st January – “That art thou.” [Tat Tvam Asi – Sanskrit]

According to Aldous Huxley, writing in 1948, there is a “Perennial Philosophy” that takes us beyond our small corner of understanding. It is not new, but constantly needs repeating in a world where peoples are divided by religion and politics and fail to see the depth, breadth and height of what we are and what this world is. The “good news” is that we are all more than our “Ego”, our sense of Self, but are part of the divine Ground, the “immanent, eternal Self”. Our task in our life on earth is to find out this truth of Who we really are. William Law said, “Though God is everywhere present, yet God is only present to thee in the deepest and most central part of thy soul.”

The path to that understanding and experience is life-long. It is a “Way” that needs to give serious attention to the world’s sources of spiritual insight. The world’s scriptures are all in translation on the Web to be read and internalised. They open to us ways of thinking beyond our particular cultural and religious context. The Universe story (which I mentioned on Sunday) also informs our spiritual journey, as we wonder at the diversity of the world’s faiths and practices. Our path to enlightenment is not about knowledge, but about aligning the heart with the ‘divine Ground’ through practices to awaken heart and mind. And that path is for everyone.

Tuesday 1st February – You will do even greater things!

My favourite New Testament Passage is this: John 14.8 to 14.14. In it the author of John’s Gospel writes of Philip’s request to be shown the Father. Jesus explains that, “I am in the Father and the Father is in me”. He points out that his words – his insights - come from the Father. Jesus then suggests that his deeds are the work of God.

Now this is the amazing thing – Jesus was not the only one to be indwelled by the Father. The ancient sages of India also knew that God was within – “That art thou”. Jesus knew his earthly life was ending, but, hey – honest truth – you will do, “even greater things, because I am going to the Father”. And so was born another company of Christ followers, whose lives would be forever changed as they discovered the presence of divine life at the heart of their very selves. The rest, as they say, is history!

Wednesday 2nd February - Love and Death

For a United Reformed Church minister I’m getting well into strange territory these days. My latest journey of discovery is into writing poetry and studying the world’s mystical writings. There is a glorious wealth of material that can change hearts and minds – not all from within my Christian home base. So for today I want to commend three poet-mystics I am sure you will have come across.

Death is today’s theme!

First from the New Testament [Paul on Resurrection]
For just as all people die because of their humanity [union with Adam]
In the same way all will be raised to life because of their union with Christ.
And from Julian of Norwich – God the Creator, Lover and Keeper
In this little thing [the whole creation] I saw three properties.
The first is that God made it. The second that he loves it. And the third, that God keeps it.

And finally from Rumi:
I died as a mineral and became a plant,
I died as plant and rose to animal,
I died as animal and I was Man.
Why should I fear? When was I less by dying?
Yet once more I shall die as Man, to soar
With angels blest; but even from angelhood
I must pass on: all except God doth perish.

Reflect on your fears and hopes as you meditate on eternity.

Thursday 3rd February – finding your Soul’s heart.

I don’t know how many of you reading this have been to Iona – that centre point of the Celtic Christian revival. For those in the know, this is a really special place for me and my partner, Mandy.

I wrote this poem as an invocation of the “Spirit of Iona – Soul of my Heart”. Use it to touch the heart of God in that natural beauty of the west of Scotland and Ireland, or anywhere that is special to you:

Iona - Soul of my heart,
Trinity of grey and green and blue
Where Columba's House sings praises.
To reach you is always hard, deliberate.
Winding roads, high passes, uncertain passage.
You are not easily known, you require of the pilgrim an "Opus Dei".
High as the mists that touch the summit places,
Veiled from track and machair - unsure cloud of heaven.
Lost coast of gentle fear, when confusions obliterate the way.
Stupendous as the storms on your western shore.
Tranquil as the whispering sound of lapping waves by the Abbey.
Heard, but melding to Your mystery - individual wavelets but one Ocean.
Why come to this outpost of isolation?
Because you may glimpse glory! Yes - because of that!
For the realm of God is close here - every heart unveiled.
Carry back this story of pilgrimage and joy.
Stay still and silent here - let its well of hope cleanse and renew.
Expect blessing, find love, above all find Life here in all its gentleness and fury.

Inspired by a storm raging in Kendal on the morning of 7 July 2010. I penned these few lines of reflection drawing on a time last October when I was on retreat on Iona. [Poem © John Hetherington 2010 – Email]

Friday 4th February – The power of Stories

One of my favourite poet / storytellers is Paulo Coellho. Another, very different, is Kenneth Steven from Perthshire, Scotland – where he writes tellingly of the everyday world of nature around him. I include a link here so that you can learn more of his evocative writing:

I find more and more that it is from the poetic heart’s imagination that the deep meanings and secrets of faith and life are revealed to us.

The Alchemist - probably the best know of Coelho’s writing is: “about magic, dreams and treasures we seek elsewhere, and then find on our doorstep”. Following the Christian or any other faith path is demanding (often because it has accreted much that is binding rather than liberating of the human spirit). So deep spiritual themes are better told in story and parable, and wrapped tight with mystery, than being theologised upon. It is rare to find theology speaking to the human heart.

God is mystery!

In the Alchemist, Santiago, an Adalusian shepherd boy, dreams of travelling. He discovers how essential it is to listen to the wisdom of our heart and following our dreams.

How often do we hear from pulpits that life is indeed about dreaming, longing, discovery and acquiring wisdom – which is not the same as knowledge. Never forget to follow your heart’s insight and be open to the wisdom that will then reshape you.

Saturday 5th February – A final reflection on nature and humanity (and our dog Wesley)

I will return today to where I began last Sunday, with the Universe story and human development. To make sense of the story think Dog! At some point a canny wolf crept into a human encampment and ran off with a trophy – some half cooked meat. The day after he came again and nearly became the tribe’s dinner. But in the end he stayed and became a half-wild pet dog! They still are.

I take Mandy’s dog Wesley out on walks and we have great fun – the latest game is fetch the stone (sticks are boring!) Well most of the time he exercises me on one of two beautiful limestone ridges (The Helm and Scout / Cunswick Scar) that overlook Kendal, Morecambe Bay, and the Lake District. He’s a really lucky dog. He takes in the smells! I get to see the boring views! It’s a good symbiosis.

Well, I’ve been pondering. The life forms in the Universe must be near infinite – but on earth we have dogs (and maybe cats or budgies). We have flowers, and trees and plants in enormous variety. And if we don’t do something soon it could all be gone as we know it! But the earth will continue for more billions of years yet. Life on earth is impermanent – as the Buddha explained. There is this life we know – and once to die – maybe more, past or future lives we can be aware of in some way.

When I am with Wes on the Scar I have a deep sense of peace and that the place has a deep history of human sensibility. It’s the sort of experience you can also get in a great Cathedral or a long ruined building. These are “Sacred Spaces”, with timeless qualities, of an ever pervading natural or human presence. Castlerigg Stone Circle is another nearby source of peace for me.