Called to Life and Light (2)
CALLED INTO LIFE
Life is a journey. We never stay still for long. To live is to grow, mature, move on, change. This has always been so, but it is even more true at the beginning of the 21st century, in a global culture that is more fluid and volatile than ever before. Now, even more than in the past, our ability to “travel well” depends on our ability to survive and manage change.
But it is not enough to hunker down and sit out the storm. On the contrary, as individuals, communities and societies, we have to learn how to engage with the changes affecting us so that transition becomes transformation. In times of change, we awaken to new opportunities. But challenge also arouses fear. What is going on? What is being asked of me? Am I equal to this task? Do I have what it takes? Will the resources be enough? Can I deliver?
God’s answer is the gift of abundant life, a gift that we access and experience through prayer. Jesus offers us a Way to embrace change with creativity and compassion, true to ourselves and to God, not least when the road takes us through suffering, even death. And the power to “travel well” is the Holy Spirit, alive in us and in our midst, as well as in the world.
Called Into Life brings together reflection and prayer as a map for the journey.
While it might seem obvious that the “journey of life” begins with birth and ends with death, this is actually a gross over-simplification of our experience. Birth brings to an end our time in the womb: death is the portal to a life we can barely imagine. In between, we undergo cycles of loss and discovery; grief and renewal; concluding, pausing, beginning again.
Some of our most painful periods are when we feel trapped in a “limbo” between one state and another. Unsettled and anxious, we wander and wait. We feel powerless, unable to act until others have made decisions affecting our future. Without “closure” we may feel unable to take control of our circumstances at all. It is a relief when at last we feel able to “move on” or “get on with our lives.”
We are aware of the current of change, but our culture is no longer comfortable with the rites of passage our forebears used to manage it. Where they are used, it is not necessarily in the conventional order. Children may be baptised before their parents are married. Bereavement can become an “entry point” into Christian fellowship. Relationships within the Christian community - let alone outside it - no longer fit the mould. And our pluralist, secularised society is devising new rituals to express its spirituality, without reference to the Church at all.
Called Into Life offers prayers, and a way of thinking about prayer, to explore and articulate our experience of change. What is the nature of our journey? How is pain is transformed into grace? How can we travel so that all we are is given to God? These questions are not only important to us personally: by exploring them, we will discover new ways of offering Christian presence and principles in a fast-changing world.
Introduction: A summary of the theme, using the imagery of Psalm 1 (The tree planted beside living water) to reflection on our experiences of “desert” and “oasis”; change as an experience that uproots us, and can undermine our confidence in so doing. Jesus shows us how we can grow in faith by learning how to “re-root” ourselves in him, even when we remain “rootless” in other ways. Prayers using images of Source, Abundance and Resourcefulness. Helps and hints for worship leaders, house-group leaders, pastoral workers, preachers and ministers. How to use this book.
1. Called to the Journey: Reflection and prayers arising from “Calling narratives.” The Voice who calls us by name, and the experience of being called to a life of discipleship. Christ as the Way, the Truth the Life. The Spirit as the Voice who speaks within us, and within our experience of change. Diminishment as a way of depth and renewal in which we discover the power of our baptism.
2. Starting Where We Are: Reflection and prayers arising from stories (e.g. Hagar and Elijah) showing how, in calling us, God comes to us where we are, and finds us where we
hide. We are invited to begin where we are, here and now, through learning to be honest and to live in the present moment. This means addressing our feelings of absence and longing, joy and pain, and learning how to “Choose Life” even in unpromising situations.
3. Thrown Out Onto the Road: Reflection and prayers arising from narratives (e.g. those of Exile and Return) that demonstrate how the adjustments asked of us in times of change are far-reaching and profound. Even in joyous circumstances, events may not work out as planned and our emotions may surprise us, too. We may not know who we are anymore, and may feel both excitement and fear in going out into the world, or facing the world anew.
4. The Long Goodbye of Looking Back: Reflection and prayers arising from stories (e.g. those of Ezra and Nehemiah) showing how learning to live in a new “place” is challenging in itself. Our sense of who we are can be tested by having to build anew even as we grieve for what we have lost. As we acknowledge what has changed, and how we feel about it, we are able to disentangle the past, let go, trust, receive peace, establish new connections that will bring us healing and hope.
5. The Place of Nowhere: Reflection and prayers arising from stories (e.g. those of Moses, Job and Jonah) that demonstrate how the journey from the old to the new may take us through a “place of nowhere” - the wilderness, the ash-heap, the belly of the beast - in which we wander or wait until we are released to move on. Powerless and in pain, we learn how our suffering is transfigured into grace.
6. Achieving the Horizon: Reflection and prayers arising from stories (e.g. those of Joshua, David and Solomon) demonstrating that achievement brings the responsibility of re-investment and renewal.
7. Always Beginning Again: Reflection and prayers arising from narratives of resurrection and rebirth that show how the journey is never ending.
Julie M. Hulme 2005
“Repent, and believe in the good news.”
The good things of the Kingdom are accessed through repentance and belief (in the good news). Repentance and faith. We have to explain these words before they have any meaning to anyone today. And much depends on how we explain them - and how we offer our explanation. We have all heard calls to repentance which made us want to run very fast in the opposite direction.
a single action in response to hearing the Gospel
feeling a sense of contrition
a process that firstly, connects a person to their past, providing a context for them to reflect on, express and explore what they have been and where they have come from.
Within this context, they are affirmed - that they have generally done their best according to the information and insight they had at the time.
Opportunity to acknowledge that even so, fell short of God’s love, and there were times when they said and did things they now regret, now recognise as mistakes, wrong turnings, sins, cruelties.
Leads into an honest awareness of the complexity of who we are here & now - holistic - body, heart, mind, will, spirit - and an honest acknowledgement of who we are and where we are (good and bad, individual & social, based on self-awareness)
Need to express “where we are” in a language which connects us to God.
In the present moment.
What kind of God meets us? faithful, compassionate, gracious. All sorts of reasons why people hesitate to open themselves to God. Shy away from it. Resist it and deny it. Refuse it.
Part of “where we have come from” is “We have come from God, who loves us.” further, “We have come from God, who intends us for abundant life.” All sorts of reasons why people clutch at, do not claim, do not deserve abundance. Shy away from it. Resist it and deny it. Refuse it.
Need to be examined, expressed, explored
over a short timescale or a long one,
we offer them to God, know that they are received
a complete turnaround in thought, word and deed; a transformation in direction, purpose, aims, allegiance, understanding, attitude and behaviour
Changes encourage and equip us to move on.
Take a step forward.
acknowledge the future
Vision of where we are going, what God wants for us.
No evidence that the future will be any different. Acting ahead of the evidence (Expression of faith)
needs to motivate us and equip us to face & handle what lies ahead
Sustain us in amended form of life. take us towards all that God longed to give us - as a step towards the realisation of the personal dream of abundance, as part of realisation of abundant life for all
prayers/ acts of confession / understanding of sin and the amendment of life lack:
framework for adequate discernment.
narrow definition of personal sin
reinforce the tendency of people to think meanly of ourselves and assume that God thinks meanly of us, too.
trap them in cycle of penitence, false humility
Far from encouraging, actually debilitates.
Weakens, rather than strengthens us for the road.
The best in us responds to the light of Christ, but Jesus accepts, forgives and heals the worst in us, as well.
A first step towards peace