Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Midweek Musing: sacred, ordinary reality

This week's midweek musing comes to you with thanks to Blackwood Uniting Church. It was for their worship gathering in the national park this past Sunday that I composed this reflection, and now share it with you, this day of Epiphany. I include with the reflection the poem 'we three metaphor', telling the story of the magi who visited Jesus, and the words I composed for celebrating communion, with another poem, 'epiphany'. Enjoy.

we three metaphor
We three kings –
one two three –
to a king
a threat we’ll be.

From the orient are
we, and yet,
for us, as well,
this king will be.

Bearing gifts,
three, for one
most precious
and long awaited king,

we traverse afar
far away to
foreign fields
of promise and hope.

We three kings,
or more, princes,
wise ones, we

have followed a star,
our intuition,
charts and books,
wisdom, a dream,

across fields, past falls,
through valleys,
over mountains, more
days more nights and on

the star travelled;
the ancients taught
us to understand
and read the signs

of promise, hope for a king
like no other;
peace for all,
and joy, and love –

love was all we felt,
love the gift we got,
brought to silence
in his presence.

No book or teacher
ever captured the true
of this moment;

this Divine coming
among us with wisdom,
with light, with glimmering,
shimmering hope.

ten years ago, or there abouts, I heard a whisper, saw a vision, dreamed a dream. ten years ago, or there abouts, you listened along with me, looked, and stretched your imaginations. it’s been quite a journey, following that shimmering, glimmering light as Wisdom beckoned me into a new way of being.

is that not what the magi were travelling towards, what Jesus was signalling, God inviting the world into? a new way of being? is that not the constant movement of the Spirit – come, live, renewed, healed, transformed, energised with hope and love.

as I followed the star in my life’s sky, I have seen a way of being unfolding for me that is part of a new way of being for my tribe, the church. From my mentor, our past minister, Steve’s identifying the ancient celtic bard as a model for this way of being for me, I moved from Black Wood Jazz, our alternative way of gathering as Christian community, to the Esther Project, an alternative faith community of story and creativity, and finally to sarah tells stories, the three-fold vocation and identity of storyteller, poet, minister I am now living.

I followed that star beyond the established pattern of ordained ministry, exploring how my passion and gifts meet the world’s needs. the world needs us to know our story and live that story with confidence and integrity alongside other traditions of faith and ideas living their story with confidence and integrity. the Christian church feels itself lost, drifting, unsure of itself in this post-Christendom era in the West. our storytellers – with oral storytelling, poetry, music, visual art, film – need to help the church to remember its story. and then to seek ways to live that story with authenticity and courage in this time, and in the places in which we find ourselves. new ways of being.

as my star has moved, taking me away from home for a while, it is moving me into deeper understanding of our story, the story of God’s love for all. I am travelling into new, or perhaps renewed, territory to discover ways to help the church to deeply enter its story and live it well today.

I imagine the travels of my first year of this adventure have been a bit like the travels of the magi of our ancient story. into foreign land ­– a great place to live, walking among ancient buildings, looking out on that silent volcano, meeting storytellers in the Scottish Storytelling Centre, scholars at New College and the wider university, poets, artists, friends in so many places.

there is unfamiliar food and drink – I have discovered I enjoy the Scottish delicaces fo haggis, whiskey and gin. However, I have not yet been tempted by a more modern Scottish treat, the deep fried mars bar. I think I can live without that one!

new customs and language – I took an introductory course in Gaelic, and I have been enjoying the Ceilidhs and festivals for which Scotland and Edinburgh are famous.

I wonder what challenges the magi faced that might have had them wanting to turn their back on that star. for me it was the money. with small scholarships to begin, I went to Scotland knowing I would run out of money after 6 months. It was so hard to juggle the need to earn money and apply for scholarships with the demands of PhD studies – I found my time and energy constantly taken up in money earning activities with little left over for my primary task in Edinburgh, to study.

We know what miracle the magi found in Bethlehem, so the story tells us, the miracle of God with us in the person of Jesus.

I have experienced the miracle of God with me through you, your prayers, your financial support through the patreon crowdfunding campaign or occasional gifts, your messages, emails, enquiries after my wellbeing to mum and dad, deb and bec. I did nearly turn my back on the dream at certain points through this year. That I did not is due in no small part to my community at home who answered my call for help and stood by me, as you have done for so long.

In June I passed the first year review board with resounding affirmation for my project from the school of divinity faculty. The Scottish Storytelling Centre are excited to be the venue for the performance at the heart of my PhD thesis – the storytelling performance of the letter to the Romans, which you will also experience in April this year. The April performance is crafted for you, as I imagine the congregations of Blackwood and Belair Uniting Churches and listen for what message this ancient letter holds for you. In this way, you are shaping the way I will tell the story on that occasion. I am very much looking forward to continuing to share with you my journey of following this star, this dream to know our story well and live it with integrity and confidence.

And where, I wonder, are your stars leading you this coming year? Where are you travelling as you follow God’s dream for a new way of being?

Take some time now to listen for the Spirit’s whisper, to look for your star, to imagine and dream. You have copies of the poem I read just now, which might be fruit for reflection. You might like to wander, or to sit.

breathe in the perfume
of the Australian grass
beneath your feet

soak in the gift
of the golden Australian sun

touch the trunk of trees, texture
of leaves and sap, like treasure
placed by magi at a baby’s bedside.

Holy Communion

We gather now to celebrate God with us, light like stars in the night sky, warmth like summer sun, sweet delight of perfume heaven sent and earthly rich.

as we travel towards the day of epiphany, we enter the story of Jesus, revelation of the Divine


God revealed
light breaking through
Sacred mystery
in the midst of
ordinary reality

a burning bush
a still small voice
a flood a rainbow
a pillar of swirling cloud
a baby

heavens opening dove descending
that still small voice
piercing the hearts
of those who have ears to hear

a man of Wisdom
love compassion
light breaking through
the darkness of this world

a man, shepherding his flock
the way their kings
were meant to rule

a man of peace

in Sacred mystery
ordinary reality


[Sing: Doxology]

this man of peace broke bread with friends
this man of courage spilled his own blood for love

Spirit of Life breathe over these gifts and into our hearts, inspire us to become the body, the love, of God with us.

we break bread, friends of Jesus and to each other

we drink fruit of the vine, branches of the One together

please serve one another in your groups with bread for our journey, and the cup of life.

Heaven opens, love spills over,
immesurable like the stars above;

God came among us as a man of peace,
Wisdom’s courage, revealed

in Sacred mystery
ordinary reality

a story we remember here, we re-member with our living.


1 comment:

Heather said...

Although I couldn't be there that day, I was thinking of you all, gathered in the Park. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Sarah. I could hear your voice speakimg them.