Monday, 9 December 2013

Holding on to sand...

Trying as hard as possible to hold onto a handful of dry sand is an activity that is guaranteed to end in frustration and gritty failure. But what has that got to do with anything, I hear you ask?

In Advent we are encouraged to prepare for the coming of God and to explore and reflect on that time of preparation and waiting. Christian discipleship: is it something that can be bettered by trying harder, by holding on tighter, by gripping it as hard as we can?

That is like holding onto dry sand, as hard as we can. Holding on tighter, it runs out just as fast. Try to hold harder: it's still gone. Is failure guaranteed?

But there is a pleasure in letting dry sand run through our fingers. The cool particles run like a liquid across our skin. The weight shifts and rustles back down to the beach or sandpit.  And there are more handfuls waiting to be picked up and let go, millions upon millions, a literally infinite repetition of taking up and gently running back the soft sand. The journey, the action, the practice of flowing sand is a delight.

Our Christian life and journey has that same flow, on so many levels. It flows over a lifetime, from birth, realization of who we are, maturity, death. Our spiritual life also flows across our life. It can also flow day by day, with a pattern of prayer, study, worship. A Christian community's life also flows: sometimes taking up the sand, growth, new ventures. Always letting it go: change, moving on, letting go.  There is the same delight is seeing the flow and pattern of God's grace in individual or community life as we see in childlike playfulness and dry sand.

So my Advent thought today, as a pressured, busy church leader? Let go, relax, and enjoy the flow of the sand. Again and again and again.

Friday, 6 December 2013

Global grace and connection

This is an image of the 'Peary Spirit,' an oil tanker, as she rounds Strone point and moves up Loch Long, towards (I assume) the Finnart Oil Terminal.  Apparently there are pipes that connect Finnart to Grangemouth Oil Refinery, built in the 1950s to allow crude to be imported via the west.

Why am I blogging this today? I spotted the vessel as she came up the Clyde after I paused for my usual 'in-car-office' on the sea front, prayers said from my phone.  She progressed from a (quite large) blur down near Arran and passed by where I was.

ShipAIS is a useful tool for the marine aficionados of Argyll: click to the right map and there's a live feed of whatever is passing you at that minute. So I, an Anglican priest, sat on the sea front in Argyll, saying my prayers, was being passed by a vessel built in Korea (by the chaebol Samsung, who also made the phone I was looking her up on), owned by a Canadian company, flying the flag of Barbados and quite probably crewed by Filipinos. Taking oil (from Shetland, according to her ShipAIS history) to the west of Scotland, to be made into petrochemical products in the east of Scotland. For example, the diesel that my car was burning to keep me warm and keep my phone charged as I did all this stuff.

The interconnectedness of it all occasionally smacks us between the eyes and shows us the invisible connections that hold the human world together. One can go down a route of Anglicanism: the Scottish Episcopal Church as the local manifestation of a church that also exists in all those places, nearly 80 million followers, as diverse as the culture and countries that it tries to align. Or one can go down a route of globalisation through technology (culminating in the chaebol created, lawsuit protected smartphone that allowed the prayers/knowledge/research to take place and reveal the connected lines...). Or one could just thank God for his gracious gifts in all that we see and all that we know.

And finish with the grace.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us all, evermore