What shall I bring?

What shall I bring?

The Shepherds sought the baby in the manger.
The Wise Men brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.
Over the years …
Artists have contributed paintings, poems, sculptures;
Families have brought their children to hear the story
and Individuals have served food to the hungry.

This year, what will I bring?

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What shall I bring?

If I bring myself …
to this story,
to this scene,
to these characters,
sitting here quietly for 5 minutes …

How might this change me?
What questions or responses does this story invite in my heart?

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What shall I bring?

Born in a stable, in a little town that was not his home,
Jesus came into this world homeless, in poverty,
and soon became a refugee because his birth was a threat to a leader.

What does this story, told today,
tell me about what God is prepared to do to love us?

I look at the manger scene;
I look at my hands.

What can I learn about love in this world?
What shall I bring?

Joyful Presence

Today I choose to express
Joy.
In bucketfuls.

In a shot glass or a demitasse
there is but a taste.

Joy served in a teacup is nice
and civilised
and polite.

Joy served in a mug
lasts just long enough for curiosity,
but it will only dampen the grumps
(And to be honest, it’s a bit selfish!)

But in a bucket?
There’s way too much for me to drink alone
– I’d have to share and share.
Pouring it out for others;
Looking out for those frowns and downturned mouths and turned up noses.
For Joyful presence isn’t about
Me.
Nor is it about the division of difference in
us or them.
But
us for them.

THAT’s good news for the poor
the broken-hearted
the oppressed
those who mourn.

An abundant, generous Joyful presence.

I heard it in the shopping center today: “Joy to the world”
And then I looked at the faces.
Some were smiling and content and laughing.
But too many were grumpy. Too much to do, and way too much frustration.

Written for Advent 3, 2016.  Rev Nigel Hanscamp

A Hope-Filled space

When I hope,
I’m not wishing.
For I can live without my wish.
But if I am deprived of hope,
I have nothing to live for.

Hope-full
or hope-empty?
It is not a trivial thing to have hope
or to lose it.

Hope lost or held
lost and found.
They tell us that in
war, or concentration camps
in cancer and in unemployment
hope makes the ultimate difference.
For despair is the ultimate killer.

But a hope-filled space
That is a space for a spark
or a roaring fire
or a single candle flame like this one.

You.
You have something the human race needs.
No, not your money, or your status.
It’s your hope.
Enough. hope.
Just enough.

Is that a wish?

– no. Far from it.

It is space for hope.

Still in One Peace

Some times when I meet you
I find … a peace
A missing peace

A peace of something I would like to have.
Something … still and quiet.
Not rushed.
Something that has time to pause
to observe beyond seeing
and listen beyond hearing
and read between my lines
and feel beyond the hard callouses of my opinions.

I’d love to have a peace of all the time in the world.

A peace of something
soothing like cool water on a hot day;
Or a single-origin coffee that yearns
to be savoured
with …

A peace of something that tastes like
curiosity and possibility
and a peace of contentment.

A peace of something infused with
hope and God
and grace
when all my infusions are bitter and selfish.

So bless me for a peace of that
which leaves me both
satisfied
and hungry for more

For every time I leave you
I am …

Still
in
One Peace

 

“Still in One Peace” is a reflection on a sign-off line in an email;
for a meal with the beautiful women from the Heathmont UC women’s fellowship;
with the words of Jesus who sat with them and said
“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness”.

3 Encounters and an invitation

Encounter 1

As I watched him race the men’s Marathon at the Rio Olympics for a little over 2 hours, I had no idea that Ethiopian Feyisa Lilesa’s people are being imprisoned, their lands stolen, and his people dispossessed.  I had no idea why Lilesa crossed his wrists over his head as he crossed the finish line in second place.

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And I had no idea, until the reports emerged, that this gesture would likely lead to his imprisonment or death should he return home. This action was a public protest against his government’s actions against his people. “I did it for my relatives in prison.” Lilesa, an Olympic silver medalist, may never be able to return home. (http://www.geeskaafrika.com/23909/ethiopia-feyisa-lelisa-athletes-speak/)

That single gesture invited the world to connect with Lilesa’s story, and that of the Oromo people group in Ethiopia. It also invited us to search out further stories of wonder and pain in the lives of all those with whom we interact every day.

 Encounter 2

“We often speak of creation as if it were separate to us, as if we were ‘other’ in our being created. When we acknowledge that we share the same soil, drink the same water, breathe the same air, and share the same Creator, we will learn to live more care-fully and justly with the whole of creation.” (a note from my journal)

EcoTheology was the subject of Rev Dr Vicky Balabanski’s presentations at the recent Presbytery Ministers conference. She talked about the stories of the Bible and Indigenous people; of spirituality and land; of how being ‘Made in God’s Image’ has an impact on how we live out and interpret the words of God in Genesis 1.28 to ‘subdue’ and ‘have dominion’ … How might God the creator do this? Should the words be translated ‘to serve and cultivate’?  Vicky’s challenge to us was, “What do we believe about ourselves in relation to the world? Do we leave the world better than we found it?”

We live on a planet with hungry mouths and fragile ecosystems; and in a society where there are no seasons in our supermarkets and too many (extra) chemicals in our food. The challenge of living on our planet in 2016 is the challenge to a Global story and an Intimate one; to BOTH feed and house 6 billion people, AND to pay attention to the flowering gum and flowing stream in our back yard.

Stepping out of the seminar, I felt myself invited to touch the earth differently; to view trees, birds, animals and people from this creation / creator perspective – and found myself noticing things I had not perceived before.

(https://soundcloud.com/ecofaith-ontheair/miriam-pepper-interviews-rev-dr-vicky-balabanski)

 Encounter 3

We have seen her twice; outside a shop and in a gallery; meticulous with her painting and generous with her time. Heather Bradbury’s paintings resemble photographs, revealing single moments … when a lone raindrop is about to fall from a leaf, or a wave is frozen in time. But beyond the canvas, for Heather painting is also an excuse to meet people – like the paint is lubricated with conversation and social interaction.

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We have one of her calendars in our house. It’s called “Brush with the Creator”. 12 month’s of paintings from Heather, and a story from MarDee Kaylock (both Mt Dandenong locals). “The Brush with the Creator calendar follows the story of Traveler, an individual whose journey is one of awareness and growth. The artwork does not reflect the physical seasons as much as the moments within Travelers year. By seeing the artwork as symbols of Traveler life, we invite you to reflect and perhaps glimpse your own story in her journey.”

As I look at the paintings and read (and re-read) the story, I’m invited to give my attention to the detail that Heather and MarDee see in shape and colour and shade and contrast and reflection and wrinkle – in creation and in people.

www.brushwiththecreator.com   / www.heatherbradbury.com

The Invitation

All 3 of these stories from the past 2 weeks open an invitation: To listen and look with more detail; with new eyes, to observe and pay attention to the people around me, the world in which I walk/run/play/work, and my own heart.  In Heather’s art, it is attention to detail in a single moment; In Vicky’s challenge it is taking time to wonder about my place in the created and changing world; In Feyisa’s story it is listening for the narratives of joy and pain in the life of a stranger or a new friend.

So here’s a Spring invitation for September to November:

Capture images, snapshots, words and phrases that catch your attention each day (one per day?). They might be photos on your phone or camera, screenshots from a computer, phrases in books or newspapers, prayers (your own or someone else’s), or moments in a day captured in a journal.  Then create a calendar for next year – either buy a cheap 2017 one and paste your montage over the images; or create one on a computer. You might want to hang it in your kitchen as a reminder to yourself, or create multiple versions and give them as Christmas presents to friends and family.

The invitation is to observe, record … and then tell your own story through this media.

Made in the image of God?

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Made in the image of God? (You, God?)
The Powerful,
strong,
confident with words and money and decisions.

In the image of God? (You God?)
The Broken,
limping,
stuttering,
poor.
Unable to put bread on the table
or string a sentence together
or look you in the eye because she has lost…
Everything and Everyone.

In the image of God?
Born right here!
born over there …
Knowing father, knowing mother.
knowing neither – nor when you were born.

In the image of God?
We breathe the same air
as friends, family and enemies;
They share the same oxygen
as plants, animals and presidents.
You use the same atmosphere
as christians, muslims, Trump and
Bruce who does not know
boundaries or cleanliness
But knows a friendly face,
who did it for the least of these.
In the image of God.

So in silence, breathe a prayer of gratitude
for the God who breathes life into each of us,
and for the air that we all share,
and for all who share that air.
The greatest and

the least of these …

Breathe a prayer of gratitude
for those who serve in our community
those who serve on our committee
those who serve on our behalf ..

those we love, and those we are learning to love.

In the image of God.

Amen

(A reflective prayer to open the 2016 AGM of the Heathmont InterChurch Help – a group of volunteers who feed and clothe “the least” in Outer Eastern Melbourne; with inspiration from @nakedpastor and some bible stuff in Genesis and Matthew’s gospel)

ash wednesday 2016: living honestly

Days like this
You look up at the sky above you
Days like this
You think about the ones that love you

All I wanna do is live my life honestly;
I just wanna wake up and see your face next to me
Every regret I have I will go set it free
It will be good for me.

“Days like this” Over the Rhine.

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All I wanna do is live my life honestly.

We sat around ashes and a candle, listening to the sultry tones of Karin Bergquist, holding the hardest of questions in our hands; questions of unforgiveness, of brokenness; questions that bring tears at 3am and stunned silence at 6pm; questions that we dare not ask aloud – though we ask them regularly.

Every regret I have I will go set it free

Ash Wednesday 2016 was an open invitation to crack open those questions in the context of a pilgrimage. “When we wake on Easter Morning, this part of the journey will be finished. This invitation is to bring these questions with us, and to engage them honestly; to seek forgiveness, reconciliation, hope; to understand ourselves and others; and to listen to the voice of One who is never far away from places and people in suffering and struggle.”

Everyone is welcome. Anytime.

All my favorite people are broken
Believe me
My heart should know

Orphaned believers, skeptical dreamers
Step forward
You can stay right here
You don’t have to go

“All my favorite people” Over the Rhine.