With All We Are (2)

Gospel: Mark 3.13-22

Prayer is simple, but we are complicated. So many layers to the praying personality.

Body: senses/physicality/sexuality

Emotion: heart/relationships/family/friendship

Mind: reason/intellect/analysis/rational education

Mind: memory/resonances/associations

Mind: imagination/creativity/dreaming/play

Will: purpose/resolve/direction/dedication/allegiance

Spirit: inspiration/potential/openness to mystery/attraction to eternity

So many layers, often pulling in different directions. So many aspects to ourselves, so easily fragmented and muddled and distracted by the multitude of people, tasks, concerns, interactions. Everything we see, hear, do affects us, and sometimes we feel like blowflies trapped in a jar.

We might be able to imagine bringing our best self to God, but all we are? This complex, mixed up mess? Is God’s love for us enough to accept us when we are like this? Is it large enough, gentle enough, wise enough, generous enough to welcome us in, hear us out, give us a hug, feed us without complaint, give without demanding anything in return until we are calm, rested, healed, restored, ready to begin again. Ready to offer ourselves once more?

Yes. That is the essence of the good news. Yes, this is exactly what God is like. This is how much we are loved. This is how we are received.

 

Reading: Mark 12.28-34

Faith, hope and love are all holistic experiences.

Prayer, discipleship and ministry are all holistic ways of seeing, thinking, believing, relating, speaking and acting.

The Feast, like all symbols and all symbolic language, is holistic – appeals to every aspect of our personalities, all at once. If we reflect on feasts we have known, and ask: “What makes a meal a feast?” we find that every aspect of ourselves comes into play. Ideally, all are “catered for”. In practice, we can be satisfied with the absence of some if particular elements are present, because certain layers may over-ride others, depending on personality & context (Proverbs 17.1 “Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife”).

But if we have the choice, we want them all, not because we are greedy, but simply because that is what abundant life means – knowing we can have it all – without guilt, without punishment, without depriving anyone else, without paying for it in the future.

Aspects to this which make us uncomfortable. Which aspects bother us most depends on who we are. Reflect on this vision and ask yourself which bits bother you – make you inclined to reject it. Notice what they are. Come back to those questions later.

Music:

 

there are problems in them making a holistic response to the Gospel

early beliefs, attitudes and assumptions, view of the self as doing the best we can in the circumstances, given what we know and how we feel,

aggravated by

specific emotional distress – experience of suffering, pain, weariness, humiliation, loss and fear,

exacerbated by

intellectual difficulties – accepting the way the story is told, relationship between God and the cosmos, incarnation, trinity, virgin birth, miracles – language and concepts – different ways of viewing and relating to the world, making decisions about what the data is telling us

social difficulties – relationship between Church and state, nature of Church as an imperialistic, hierarchical, patriarchal organisation. Reinforcing class system and social exclusion. Historical connection between Church and injustice, Church and violence. Institutional sexism, racism and homophobia. Church’s collusion with sexual offenders.

Tension between Church’s ethos of service and vocation with the cultural norms of regulation, risk-assessment, frequent appraisal and evaluation, and high standards of training. When service-providers in the voluntary sector are required to be trained and regulated, what does vocation mean? Does it equate to an unregulated, unaccountable amateurism? Called to account for lack of professionalism.

principles (whether war or violence of any kind is justified under any circumstances, whether a high value on human life is compatible with the refusal to defend oneself) what is patriotism? Tribal loyalties vs nation state. “King and country” no longer the rallying symbols

allegiance and loyalty – families and friends - new understanding of what constitutes a lasting bond between two people – still possible, different permutations. Allow for same-sex bonds, wider networks of friendship including several former sexual partners.

Workplace loyalties – personal level – transient teams built on knowledge of each others’ expertise – pulled together for a period of intense effort on a particular task, then dissolving. Mobile phone, email and internet friendships. Shared interest and goal rather than shared locality. Vocal and verbal interaction instead of face to face.

Different attitude towards abundance – in the past, television, fridge or washing machine, car, central heating, inside toilet, own your own home. In days of saturation advertising, the whole idea of “abundance” is confusing. It is not the same as prosperity or a high standard of living or a life in which everything goes well. So what is it? Help new generations to define it.

 

God's Grace Embraces Us Whole

the praying personality (overall picture)

concerned with all levels of our personality

to re-order them in relation to each other and our awareness

to realign them to God, so that the Spirit can flow

God's desire is for our wholeness - whole people wholly offered to God

Love the Lord your God with all your .......... (Luke 10)

the way of Jesus may be narrow, and at times difficult, but it is also a way of healing and hope. It is the way that makes us whole, that engages us body, heart, mind, soul and spirit.

In reading an article in the Guardian Review, I came across this comment by an Israeli writer, Aharon Appelfeld: “You can write with your head, or you can write with your heart, but to write real literature you must write with your whole being.”

What he is saying, I believe, is that if we want to be creative, then we have to respond with everything we are. We cannot just offer a part of ourselves and expect it to be creative. We have to put our whole selves into it – including the bits that we are not sure belong to us – whatever those bits might be. This has implications for everything we do – worship, learning and caring, social justice, mission and evangelism. Unless it is the offering of the whole person, and of the whole people of God, then it will not be as profound, awesome, spiritual, transformative, as it can be.

 

This means, amongst other things, that we have to keep our lines of communication open between the different parts of the whole Body of Christ. We all need each other. But it also means that each of us will be more creative as we offer the whole of ourselves, both thought and deed, reflection and action, rest and work.

This locating must be done holistically.

  • body, heart, mind (reason, memory, imagination), soul and spirit
  • all saying something different, all jostling to be heard, to receive attention
  • encourage harmony through alignment with each other (prayer exercises) and orientation (Godward)
  • when achieved, brings moments of wisdom, insight, clarity,focus, purpose, understanding, vision, revelation, inspiration
  • that move us on
  • we see more clearly who we are, what we have been given, what we have to do, and where we are going

We catch glimpses of this untapped potential as we begin to exercise faith with our whole selves, and as we join with others to step forward in faith together[1].

[1]Mark 12.28-31. See Deuteronomy 6.5. “Heart and soul and mind and soul are all metaphors for the whole energies of a person, gathered and directed to a single aim, as we would speak of putting your heart and soul into something. The repetition is there to make the point as strongly as possible. We are to love God with everything we are, with our whole being, with our entire personality. All our powers, energies and abilities are to be gathered and directed towards this one end.

transformative faith is holistic faith, a faith that energises - and expresses the conviction of - the whole person. It has its own rationality, but it embraces the heart, the will and the spirit as much as the mind. Saving faith is our confidence in a God of infinite abundance, compassion, generosity and grace; our confidence that we are loved by such a God, and our willingness to trust in what such a God will make of us.

Transforming faith is far more than a creed to which we give our intellectual assent. Faith embraces all that we are as spiritual personalities. Faith is a body that knows how to unwind after a hard day. Faith is a heart that is overflowing with gratitude, contentment and joy. Faith is reason attuned to the abundance of God. Faith is a memory that has been healed, so that any wounds we carry are not the source of present pain, and do not distract us or distort our perceptions.

Faith is an imagination that sees potential, envisages possibilities, and works out ways to realise them. Faith is a self-image that springs from knowing that we are beloved, of infinite value to One who longs to pour out upon us abundant life. Faith is the determination to keep faith with God, who keeps faith with us. And faith is the free-flow of the Spirit, energising our spirits for freedom, love and hope.

- holistic - extra dimension of life that comes from interaction of whole being, whole group It is reasonable to suppose that Jesus’ own vision of faith was holistic. In Mark 12.28-31, when challenged as to which commandment is the first of all, he responds: “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord your God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’. There is no other commandment greater than these.” The phrase listing heart, soul, mind and strength is an elaboration of Deuteronomy 6.5, and its purpose is emphasis. “Heart” and “soul” and “mind” and “soul” are all metaphors for the whole energies of a person, gathered and directed to a single aim, as we would speak of “putting your heart and soul” into something. The repetition is there to make the point as strongly as possible. We are to love God with everything we are, with our whole being, with our entire personality. All our powers, energies and abilities are to be gathered and directed towards this single aim.

 

taught the apostles to allow their whole personalities to receive and resonate with the power of God, Thus far - thus conventional - where departed from his contemporaries - saw the whole person and the whole community as energised by God for change. As energised by God for life-giving transformation. Energies not into sustaining the peoples’ livelihood and faithful service of God under Roman occupation. But in realising the Kingdom or Kingship of God, despite the Romans. Jesus saw faith as making this possible, and as being the means whereby the most ordinary person could be part of the change. Jesus’ vision of faith and its potential was far greater than any of those around him could grasp. He saw faith as the means whereby ordinary people could bring the life of God into their circumstances - any circumstances - and in so doing realise the sovereignty of God here and now - with all that this implied for their wellbeing.

Jesus promises that if we bring everything to him, all we are, including our anger, pain and fear, he will show us how to deal with it. How he dealt with his own.

Jesus answered, ‘The first [commandment] is Hear, O Israel: the Lord our god, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength…’ (Mark 12.29-30)

   

Abundance: A form of “wealth” that touches me in many different ways at once; that I find nourishing, sustaining and life-giving; that I want to explore, increase (work for, invest in) and share with as many as possible; and which inspires me with a sense of enlarged (even infinite) potential.

The art of abundance is paying attention.

[1] St Bernard of Clairvaux.

How do we worship God with our whole heart?

By pursuing/doing the “one necessary thing.”

The “one necessary thing” is to be true to oneself

To know, and be honest about what we want to do

To exclude distractions so as to focus on the one thing necessary in the present moment

Whatever that one thing might be

Find the one thing you need to be doing and do it with your whole heart, to the best of your ability

Offer it as the best of yourself at that moment

Remain true to that one thing

Face it rather than avoid it

Face your fear of it, rather than evading the fear or letting it distract you

Live from love, not fear

Then remain true to your friends in the same way - help them remain true to themselves

And remain true to the world in the same way - enable it to be true to itself

This is the truth of myself, us, God

This is how we worship God with our whole selves,

With all that we are. In spirit and in truth.

it will engage us as whole people

In reading an article in the Guardian Review, I came across this comment by an Israeli writer, Aharon Appelfeld: “You can write with your head, or you can write with your heart, but to write real literature you must write with your whole being.”

What he is saying, I believe, is that if we want to be creative, then we have to respond with everything we are. We cannot just offer a part of ourselves and expect it to be creative. We have to put our whole selves into it – including the bits that we are not sure belong to us – whatever those bits might be. This has implications for everything we do – worship, learning and caring, social justice, mission and evangelism. Unless it is the offering of the whole person, and of the whole people of God, then it will not be as profound, awesome, spiritual, transformative, as it can be.

This means, amongst other things, that we have to keep our lines of communication open between the different parts of the whole Body of Christ. We all need each other. But it also means that each of us will be more creative as we offer the whole of ourselves, both thought and deed, reflection and action, rest and work.

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