Re-Cutting Covenants

•September 16, 2012 • Leave a Comment

20120916-074338.jpg Eucharist

(Some mostly coherent thoughts on covenantal dining follow.)

I am always fascinated by the indelible connection between food and relationship. When you want to get to know someone, you almost always do it over some sort of food: go out for coffee, eat lunch, go on a dinner date, etc.

Food is central to life. Relationships are the sharing of life. It is natural that food and meals would acquire deep symbolic meaning. When you share food, you are literally sharing Life itself. Humanity has long thought like this.

In biblical terms, you would be ‘cutting a covenant’ because you would literally be cutting up animals. You would be taking the life of the animal (or plant, if you wish), and offering it to one another to establish and new relationship, a new life status.

I, personally, find strong resonances in covenantal meals with the biblical ‘peace offerings’. Peace offerings did not atone for any sin. They appear to either 1) give thanks to God, 2) confirm a vow, or 3) be simply a freewill offering, no compulsion necessary. In each of these cases, making or confirming relationship is at the centre. As a result, I tend to look at ‘shared meals’, even the good and venerable Sunday pot-luck dinner as a form of ‘peace offering’.

On Friday nights, at JUC, the students celebrate the beginning of Shabbat (which ironically they don’t keep due to field studies…) with a large, communal meal. The symbolic elements of bread and the fruit of the vine are shared. Then the meal itself is taken together. This past Friday night, I challenged the students to view Shabbat Dinner as their act of recommitting to the relationship of peace that they have, one with another, in the Christ. It is a peace offering. A re-cutting of the covenant, if you will. It is people sharing life with one another.

And now, it is Sunday. Today, I will take Eucharist at church. Likewise, I view Eucharist as a sort of ‘peace offering’. It is a meal wherein I remember (anamnesis) that I am in a relationship of peace with God himself. In this meal, we ‘reaffirm’ our covenant and I am reminded of my convenantal vows and obligations to my King. In it, I share Life with God, the Life of Christ. I eat of the Bread of Heaven, the Body of Christ. I drink of the Fruit of the True Vine, the Blood of Christ.

It is a beautiful thing to have one’s weekends bookmarked with reminders that there is peace: with Humanity and with God. It is faith strengthening to start the week reminded of the Covenant of Peace with God. It is reassuring to finish the week at Peace with Humanity.

Kavod.

20120916-074352.jpg Shabbat Dinner

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Praying

•September 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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I am a reprehensibly poor praying person. Perhaps that statement isn’t strong enough. But, you get the idea. I don’t pray in a holy enough fashion, consistently enough, or with power or verve or nerve. Maybe if I just had the stuff the Oracle at Delphi had…

Yet, there I stood: in the Student Lounge at the campus of Jerusalem University College, with 15+ pairs of eyes/ears watching and listening to me as I led them in prayer. I am not qualified to do this job. And yet, I am fully equipped to do this job.

I stand on the shoulders of better men and women of The Faith who have gone before me. Those who knew God, in ways that I can merely deign to dream about, have passed on to me their wisdom, their reflections, their joy and hope in the Risen Christ. They are showing me how to pray.

They have written it down for posterity. You can find their prayers in various, traditional and liturgical prayer books. Their prayers are supersaturated with Holy Scripture, surrounding and penetrating the very marrow of their words to God. When they offer words of their own, I can picture them labouring and straining over their prayers, seeking in great travail to properly offer a true sacrifice of prayer, honour and glory to The Living One.

It is an ostentatious and sumptuous feast: it fills the room with the odour of incense, rising up to heaven; a pleasing aroma. It lingers in your nostrils long after having completed the prayers…it dances along your palate: succulent and scandalously sumptuous. It draws us into savouring The Presence. It calls us to sit in silent reverence in the Dark Space and to peer into the Thinness that surrounds us in order to catch a glimpse that Heaven is here; now.

We are, indeed, surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. Some of them have left us an inheritance; a heritage. A priceless Trust Fund. They, who waltzed in company with the Angels and were closer than family with The Ancient of Days, have left lesser men, such as myself, their Life in Christ, written down, a Great Banquet Feast and a Guide.

It is the Fellowship of the Saints.

For that, and on behalf of my little flock, I give The Good Shepherd thanks.

Kavod.

Beginnings

•August 25, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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‘Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her,
all you who love her,’ says the Lord.

‘Rejoice with her in joy,
all you who mourn over her,

‘That you may drink deeply with delight
from her consoling breast.’

For thus says our God,
‘You shall be nursed and carried on her arm.

‘As a mother comforts her children,
so I will comfort you;

‘You shall see and your heart shall rejoice;
you shall flourish like the grass of the fields.’

from Isaiah 66.10, 11a, 12a, 12c, 13a, 14a, b

I sit in my flat, comfortably ensconced in my Dark Space, dark liquid steaming in my mug next me. The birds echo their morning greeting to the Dawn and The Morning Star. All is calm: Shabbat in the Land; in Jerusalem, City of the Great King.

I sit to the west of the Old City, which encompasses portions of the ancient, biblical Jerusalem. It too is still and quiet. Until during the 5 o’clock hour, the bell tower of the Church of the Resurrection begins to ring.

It is not a pretty sounding bell. Deep and resonant, it does not have the bright peels I heard in England and also from other European churches in Jerusalem. This bell is more like a gong: primal, exotic, other.

It cries out from the site where sin and death were conquered by The Alpha and the Omega. It speaks of the One, who rode upon the clouds, surrounded in darkness. The One who descended into the Darkness, rising again bringing the Light of Life. And it is just there: a few hillocks away from my Dark Space.

The excerpt above is entitled in my prayer book, A Song of Jerusalem, Our Mother. It is fitting. Jerusalem has been the birthplace of many things. ‘Rejoice and drink deeply with delight’ the hymn says. ‘Be carried and comforted, for I, the Living One, will comfort you…’

Today, new students will register for classes at Jerusalem University College. Little do they know, that these classes will forever alter the course of their lives. They will encounter a Mother Jerusalem. They will have the opportunity to drink deeply with delight. They can stand in the place, whose bells cry out, ‘He is Risen!’ Perhaps, they will find the Living One there, comforting them.

And perhaps, they shall see and their hearts shall rejoice; they shall flourish like the grass of the fields…here in the City of the Great King.

Kavod.

The Host

•August 5, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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Out on the horizon, you can pick it out quite easily. The land all around it is that familiar reds, browns, yellows, and yellowish-browns of the colour of sand. Yet, what you see is dramatically black and obvious. No attempts at hiding here.

As you move closer, you can see people milling about the Black Object. They are busy with the workings of the group, primarily seeing to animals, or if not to animals, then to staying out of the sun.

It is the tent.

You walk up. It is easily in triple digits, temperature-wise (around 40 for you Centigrade fans). You can see the blessed shade in front of you. You want it.

Something stirs within the shade. It is a man. He appears to be somewhere between 65-infinity. His skin is dark, deeply creased and yet timeless. His face says, ‘I have seen much and know more. I am full of wisdom and knowledge.’

It is the Host.

He invites you in. You step into the blessed shade and find a place to sit. The Host proceeds to rummage around in an old bag, coming up with green-coffee beans. He begins the roasting process, stirring them slowly in his iron pan. It gives off the familiar odour of baking bread.

The host says little, other than to members of his household. They see to our needs and we’ve no need to ask for anything.

The roasting is finished. Now he pours the beans into a large, brass mortar and begins to grind them with his pestle. Periodically, he pauses in his grinding to rap the mortar with the pestle, causing it to ring out. These are peels of announcement: I am hosting.

He then commences to brew the coffee, mixing in cardamon as well, sending exotics smells into the atmosphere. It is like the burning of incense…

Looking up, you see the pinpricks of sunlight that push their way through the goat hair tent. One can almost imagine that it is the night sky you see; myriads of stars shimmering overhead.

The Host and his tent. This is refuge in the desert. The host provides for all your needs, without your needing to ask. He provides for your protection: you and all that is yours. You are safe, provided for. The Host brings out a feast, more food than you can possibly eat. Mountains of food. Costly. He does not pry into your business either. He is hosting. And perhaps, he can already read you, having read people for perhaps a millennia, who can tell?

The Host. He calls to mind Abraham, shepherding his Visitors into the shade, and running ’round to get milk, bread and meat.

The Host. He calls to mind another Host.

‘It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;
who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to live in’ (Is. 40.22).

The Living One is The Host. The universe is his tent. He brings you in and offers you shelter, provision, protection. He sacrifices the most Precious for your needs: shelter and protection from sin and death. He then feeds you with the finest Bread of Heaven and gives you to drink from the Cup of Joy and Salvation.

And you hear the faint echo, ‘This is my body…’This is my blood…’

He is The True Host.

Kavod.

‘Almighty God, we thank you for feeding us with the Body and Blood of your son, Jesus the Christ…’

Land

•July 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

20120728-172612.jpg Judean Hills

(The last episode in a ‘Thinking Out Loud’ series)

Land

Memory. The Land echoes with Deep Memory. It has seen civilisations, peoples, empires and wars come and go. It continues to do so. It has seen much, heard much, and been subjected to more.

It remembers. It anamnetes.

Witness. The Land bears testimony to its history, reminding all who come to its shores of the great sagas and epics that have traversed its hills and valleys. It is still the map of the Greatest Saga, whose final chapters are still unfolding upon other shores.

Liminality. It is a thin place: squeezed between a sea of water and sea of sand. And, of course, it is a Thin Place. A portal between Seen and Unseen. It has borne witness to the visitations of angels and Visitors. It has seen the Great Visitation. It has interred the Bread of Heaven and soaked up the Fruit of the Vine.

It anamnetes. It testifies to what happened.

Moulding. The Land moulds and shapes. Individuals, tribes, nations. Bodies, minds, spirits. Prophets, priests, kings. Storytellers and Saviours. It gives colour to parables and meaning to the mysterious. It is the canvas of the Story of Redemption. It continues to shape and mould messengers, storytellers, prophets and priests. Believers.

Centre. It is the Source. The beginning point for shaped and moulded apostles and messengers. From the Land, the People of God have gone forth, testifying to uttermost parts of the earth.

Renewal. The Land calls out and beckons for a return. ‘Return to the Source. Come and anamnete. Be moulded and shaped. Be broken upon its rocks, mountains, valleys and plains. Be torn upon its trees, thorns and thistles. Be hardened for the Journey by the scorching hot and bone-chilling cold. Be prepared to be the People of God.’

Resurrection. The Land was broken. The Risen Christ could not be contained. The People of God were resurrected too: restored to New Life and sent out.

The Land of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Land that is the Undoing of the souls of men and women. The Land through which they are Remade and in which they are Resurrected and from which they proclaim the Kingdom of Heaven and the Reign of the Most High.

It is the Land of Anamnesis.

It was an ordinary Land. Now made extraordinary by the Feet that Trod upon it. Those Feet, in sanctifying an ordinary land, have sanctified all Land. The Earth is the Lord’s and all it contains.

We all have Sanctified Land.

But, there is one Land of Anamnesis.

A Land of Expectation and Hope. Awaiting the Final Great Visitation.

‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.’

20120728-172743.jpg Beer Sheva

Shabbat

•July 28, 2012 • Leave a Comment

20120728-103113.jpg Tasting the World to Come

(2nd to last episode in a ‘Thinking Out Loud’ series)

Shabbat.

The week is nearly done. People are racing around, leaning into Shabbat. All are chasing it; smelling it; sensing it; aching for it.

Rest.

A woman’s hands light the candles whilst praying, ‘Blessed are You, O Lord our God, King of the Universe…’ The time has been demarcated. Sanctity has been placed. The portal is open.

Liminality is unleashed.

A man lifts a cup of wine, and gives thanks to the One who creates the fruit of the vine. The Joy of Shabbat is internalised.

A man lifts bread, gives thanks to the One who brings it forth from the earth. Echoes of Easter Morning, where the Bread of Heaven is truly brought forth from the earth.

Echoes of Eucharist.

A sacred meal. A sacred, anamnetic moment. Outside nearly all is quiet. Peaceful. Restful.

Shabbat.

‘Peace! Be still!’ A command to the creation. Creation unhesitatingly obeys.

‘Cease striving, and know that I am God.’ A command that created humanity struggles to obey.

The command restated, ‘Come to me all you who are weary and beset with burdens, and I will give you rest.’

Rest.

Rest from worry, anxiety, fear. Rest from striving, pushing, grabbing, hoarding. Rest from responsibility for success, provision, protection.

It is the offer of Freedom.

All we need do is Trust. For one day. Trust that he will feed, clothe, care, and sustain. Trust that we, through the Thin Place of the Shabbat Table, have entered in to the Tent of the Living One. He offers us hospitality, security, provision. Freedom. Rest.

Shabbat is a day of Trust.

A Day in which we get a taste of the World to Come, the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth.

Enter into his Shabbat Rest.

Trust and be free.

Eucharist III

•July 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

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(Another episode in a ‘Thinking Out Loud’ series)

They have come from all over the world, to Jerusalem, the City of the Great King. Jerusalem, perhaps the most liminal and Thin Place on planet.

They have come to City of the King. And now, they sup with him at his Banquet. They line up: African, Asian, European, North and South American, Far East Asians, Aussies and Kiwis. Arabs and Jews. Rich and poor. Healthy and disabled. The new People of God.

They hold out their hands and receive the Bread of Heaven, crushed and broken for them.

They drink of the Cup of Salvation, imbibing of the Eternal Joy represented within.

They are One. One Faith, One Lord, One Baptism.

The Eucharistic Community.

‘Though we are many, we are One Body, because we share in One Bread.’