Today Jenny and I were inducted into pastoring the same church into which we were similarly inducted 26 years ago!
A bit different this time.
In 1996 we were returning to a state from which we had been absent for 17 years. We knew the church only by reputation and were anticipating a good fit. It must have been because we stayed 22 years before retiring midway through 2018.
Now we are back for a 3-month part-time interim. We were inducted once more, answering the charge “to share that which gives people the way to live the life more abundantly.” This time we know the people, we know the ethos, we know the challenges that confront an ageing and passionately active and questing faith community.
The set Gospel passage was telling – a grieving Peter summoned from his fishing nets to take up the charge to “feed the sheep” in response to his restored relationship with the Risen Christ. I don’t see the summons out of retirement in quite the same terms (I wasn’t grieving!) but am alive to the task that is driven by an ever-questing relationship with the living Christ.
An intense, yet tender exchange takes place between two estranged friends in next Sunday’s gospel. One has gone in search of the other, who, guilt and grief-ridden, and not knowing what to do, has returned to his former work. The searching one draws him forth to a fire he has set on the beach and over which he is preparing to cook a fish breakfast. A most hospitable setting over which to repair a strained relationship.
You see, the working one had left the searching one for dead. When he heard that he had defied death and was actually alive, walking out of the tomb in which he had been laid, and speaking to people, he fled to the safety of the known.
But his own phantoms pursued him. The accusing fingers continued to jab into his psyche. “He wanted so much from you.” “He called you the foundation on which he was going to build all that he was talking about” “You’re the one who called him Anointed – even the Son of the Living God!” “Yet you couldn’t even admit you knew him at his time of greatest need.”
And now, here he is, calling him and his companions to breakfast on the beach.
Three piercing and well-placed questions. Three summons to reclaim and fulfil his true purpose.
When I used this phrase to describe my imminent return from retirement to some part-time work, my peer mentors challenged me. “What do you mean by back into harness?” I let my muse respond…
What is a harness? A shackle that constricts and restrains? Straps of bondage as heavy as chains? Stifling freedom, restricting one’s way, Muffling one’s ability to engage with some play?
Or rather the yoke that is easy and light Opening ways to embrace some fresh insight? Rather the fire that burns in the grate than the wildfire that will not abate. The stream contained by its shore than the floods that swamp, we abhor.
Yep, harness seems the right word Slipping it on isn’t absurd The calling is right, the burden is light The Spirit within me is stirred.
Writing poetry in the middle of the night because reflux is keeping you awake has its nuances, especially when you are on retreat with several mutual mentors who are also therapists!
Here’s the poem: Phantoms of the night Gather around my bed Whispering anxieties and “what ifs” They scoff at my commands of dismissal So perhaps I should befriend them “No way,” they say, and disappear into the ether.
A remaining question to ponder: are those so gathered angels or demons?
Sadly or gladly, the season of my foray of daily lectionary haikus has come to its end for now. Don’t ask me why, it just seems they have served their purpose. Perhaps the point of engaging with a daily devotion in this way had become something like the tail wagging the dog. Instead of allowing the Word to engage me in its most direct and surgical manner, I was becoming distracted with searching for the correct 5-7-5 formula to give it expression. Today I am in retreat and will possibly discover ways in which my writing will give better expression to what I am wanting to communicate to myself and the universe. There is much that has been pulling towards a disintegrated approach to the challenges that surround me, and my striving is towards the unification and non-duality that finds its most complete expression in the experience of the living Christ. Haikus have been a tool but not the goal and will still appear from time to time. in fact, it seems appropriate to sign off with one.
Finding words is hard Haikus distill essence well Avoid addiction
If one is in any doubt over gender equity in the sacred texts, let today’s passages put your mind at ease. The tumultuous age of the Judges sees strong initiative by female wile. The feminine principle is equally powerful in the visions of Revelation