Community Newsletter – 12 August 2012
Welcome to the Anam Cara Community newsletter for the week beginning 12 August 2012. In this issue you’ll find the weekly gospel reflection, a prayer by Michel Quoist, reflections by Thomas Keating and John Piper, and news of events coming soon.
This newsletter is one of the ways by which we hope to promote community. The Anam Cara Community is intended to be much more than simply a group of likeminded people. We hope it will continue to grow into a community that is a sign of God’s presence in and love for the world.
If you have a piece of writing you’d like to share with the Community, feel free to send it on to Colin (firstname.lastname@example.org). Work of all sorts is encouraged.
For your prayers
Part of the joy of the Anam Cara Community is the gift of being called to pray for others. If you would like the Community to pray for you, or for someone else, please email or phone Colin (email@example.com, 0403 776 402) or Jane (0411 316 346 or firstname.lastname@example.org) who will add them to the prayer list, and ensure they’re included in the next issue of the Newsletter. At present, your prayers are asked for:
- Anne Turner, who is recovering from gall-bladder surgery, and give thanks for improvements arising from changes to her diet. Please also pray that as God leads her into new places, that she might be willing to follow.
- Jane Macqueen, whose ministry is busy and demanding.
- Colin Thornby, who has relapsed mantle cell lymphoma. Colin is having chemotherapy at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.
- Brian Turner, as he enters into a new phase of ministry as priest-in-charge of the Parish of Avon.
- The Servant Leaders of the Community, as they discern plans for 2013.
- Bishop John McIntyre, as he ministers to us and among us.
- The Anglican Parish of Yarram, as they begin a new phase of ministry.
- Cheryl Russell, who has been unwell.
28-30 September 2012 – ‘Exploring Spring’ Retreat at the Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park
Marilyn Obersby will lead a time exploring the season of Spring
- The dates and shape of the retreat will depend on numbers
- Venue will be the Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park
- For further information, and to express interest contact Sue at the Abbey (03) 5156 6580 email@example.com)
13 October 2012 – Windows into Judaism
A day exploring themes in Judaism, and the distinctive traditions coming out of Judaism.
- 10am to 3pm
- Allan and Jan Huggins’ home (1067 Yarragon South Road, Trafalgar South – access from the Princes Freeway via Sunny Creek Road)
- BYO lunch – morning and afternoon tea, and soup, will be provided
- RSVP by contacting Carolyn (03 5191 8343), Jan (03 5634 7616) or Marion (03 5623 3216)
- Cost is free-$15 depending on means
- Further information, and a printable flyer at: http://www.anamcara-gippsland.org/?p=730
The Judaeans then grumbled about him because he had said, ‘I am the bread which came down from heaven.’
‘Isn’t this Jesus, Joseph’s son?’ they said. ‘We know his father and mother, don’t we? So how can he say “I came down from heaven”?’
‘Don’t grumble among yourselves,’ answered Jesus. ‘No one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws them—and I will raise them up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “They shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who listens and learns in the presence of the father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the father except the one who is from God; he has seen the father.’
‘I’m telling you the solemn truth,’ Jesus went on. ‘Anyone who believes in me has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors in the wilderness ate the manna, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, so that people can eat it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats from this bread, they will live for ever. And the bread which I shall give is my flesh, given for the life of the world.’
It’s easy for us, drenched as we are in the language of the eucharist, to bring our meanings to this passage, and when we do, we can think that we’ve got everything we can from it. Certainly, the author of John is referring back to the Eucharist – not explicitly, but the language points to it.
There are some moments in this passage for us to sit with, I think.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, this part of John’s gospel is thick with references to the story of the Exodus. A hard truth for the people of Israel was that there was nothing about them that made God choose them – they weren’t special in any way. It is simply God’s loving choice that leads God to choose them, and rescue them. Similarly, there is nothing special about us – but we’re drawn to Jesus by the Father. We’re drawn simply because God loves us and chooses us, and continues to choose us, even when we’re not choosing God. God does the work, and we co-operate with God’s work.
The same mix of sentiments from the Exodus is on display here. The forebears of the Jewish opposition grumbled about God in the wilderness, and they grumble about Jesus, too. Rather than giving them what they want – a messiah who will emancipate them politically, Jesus points to something much deeper. God is offering them an encounter with the living God, in their midst, as well as freedom from what really binds them – slavery to a system where sin requires punishment. God offers them Jesus, whose death will make the old system a thing of the past, by doing away with the very need to even think in those terms.
The phrasing of this passage recalls part of Isaiah (54-55), where there is a prophecy about the renewal that will come through the outpouring of God’s love – where everyone will have what they need, freely given and freely received. This picks up what Jesus has just said in verse 35 – ‘the one who believes in me shall never be thirsty’. God takes the initiative, because we’re completely helpless.
Our job is to listen to the Father and learn from him – to be taught by God, ‘learning in the presence of the father’. Sounds simple, but in practice it is really quite difficult to put aside ourselves and the many, many things from outside us that stop us from listening. Our practice in this area needs to be simple, but consistent. We need to put aside time several times a day to listen to God, in silence, through encounter with scripture, in our teachers, and in the world around us. The ways of Christian meditation and Centering Prayer provide techniques that can assist us in being still, and listening, and learning. They provide ways for us to simply ‘be’.
‘Eternal life’ is a phrase that needs to be unpacked, because it all too often just becomes ‘for ever and ever’. There is a sense of that, but deeper than that is a participation in the inner life of Jesus. The heart of the Christian tradition is that, in some way, we begin to participate in God, through our participation in Jesus. We are drawn into the very heart of God, and as we journey deeper and further into God we become more and more aware of that. It is why spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, Bible reading, constant prayer, sacrificial giving, the Sabbath, the Eucharist and pilgrimage are so important – because they point us to the inner life that we already participate in, by stripping away the things that are no longer necessary, or which distract us from who and what we really are. Eternal life is not just length, but depth – and the depth is something we participate in now, even if we’re not always aware of it (or, in fact, are seldom aware of it except in tiny glimmers of transcendence). Everyone who shares in the living bread, the body of Jesus, shares in the inner life. Jesus gives us himself, demonstrating a new way of being in the world – a way which requires no payment for failure, no scapegoats, no limits on compassion and love, and which holds up the example of the Good Samaritan as the exemplar for all who come after.
- What are your grumbles to God? What are you resentful about? What can you do about that?
- What does eternal life mean to you?
- Re-read this passage, and imagine you were present when Jesus spoke. Where are you? What are your reactions on hearing it?
- What freedoms is God offering you?
- What does ‘being in the presence of the Father’ mean to you? Are you comfortable there? Is it a startling thought? A frightening one? One that makes no sense? What is your experience of ‘being in the presence of the Father’? Would it make a difference to think of ‘being in the presence of the Mother?’
- What do you think of the idea of ‘a new way of being in the world’
Prayer by Michel Quoist
I need to love.
All my being is desire;
yearn in the night towards an unknown one to love.
My arms thrash about, and I can seize on no object for my love.
alone and want to be two.
I speak, and no one is there to listen.
I live, and no one is there to share my life.
Why be so rich and have no one to enrich?
Where does this love come from?
Where is it going?
I want to love, Lord,
I need to love.
Here, this evening, Lord, is all my love. . . .
and make, silently, a long pilgrimage to the bottom of your heart.
Walk by the side of your love so new, as one follows a brook to find
its source, and, at the very end, deep within you, in the infinite
mystery of your troubled soul, you will meet me.
For I call myself Love, son,
And from the beginning I have been nothing but Love,
And Love is in you.
It is I who made you to love,
To love eternally;
And your love will pass through another self of yours -
it is she that you seek;
Set your mind at rest; she is on your way,
on the way since the beginning,
the way of my love.
You must wait for her coming.
She is approaching.
You are approaching.
You will recognize each other,
For I've made her body for you, I've made yours for her.
I've made your heart for her, I've made hers for you.
And you seek each other, in the night,
In 'my night,' which will become Light if you trust me.
Keep yourself for her, son,
As she is keeping herself for you.
I shall keep you for one another,
And, since you hunger for love, I've put on your way all your brothers
Believe me, it's a long apprenticeship, learning to love,
And there are not several kinds of love:
Loving is always leaving oneself to go towards others. . . .
Lord, help me to forget myself for others, my brothers,
That in giving myself I may teach myself to love."
Looking for Happiness
Our spiritual journey does not start with a clean slate. We carry with us a prepackaged set of values and preconceived ideas which, unless confronted and redirected, will soon scuttle our journey, or else turn it into pharisaism, the occupational hazard of religious and spiritual people.
The developmental character of human life has become much better known in the last hundred years, and it has enormous implications for the spiritual journey. Our personal histories are computerized, so to speak, in the biocomputers of our brains and nervous systems. Our memory banks have on file everything that occurred from the womb to the present, especially memories with strong emotional charges….
We may not remember the events of early childhood, but the emotions do. When events occur later in life that resemble those once felt to be harmful, dangerous, or rejecting, the same feelings surface…. The human heart is designed for unlimited happiness–for limitless truth and for limitless love–and nothing less can satisfy. We travel down various roads that promise happiness but can't provide it because they are only partial goods. Since the emotional programs from early childhood are already in place, our search for happiness in adults life tends to be programmed by childish expectations that cannot possibly be realized….
We come now to the heart of the problem of the human condition. Jesus addressed this problem head-on in the gospel. What was his first word when beginning his ministry? "Repent." To repent is not to take on afflictive penances like fasting, vigils, flagellation or whatever else appeals. It means to change the direction in which you are looking for happiness.
From Invitation to Love
Loving God first
It is fair to say, I think, that many involved with the Anam Cara Community would find much of what John Piper writes and teaches challenging, if not alienating. John comes from a Calvinist background, and this makes his theological and other emphases different to our own, and somewhat confronting. As honest seekers after God, though, we can often find wisdom in places that surprise us. In the piece below John gets to the heart of part of the problem with contemporary Christianity, and with some of our discipleship…
Would there be any cautions that you would have for the New Reformed/New Calvinist Movement you referenced earlier?
I will give you one that is from a prophetic word given to me yesterday-take it or leave it. I’m cautious when people come to me with these kinds of things. But this rung true, and you can see that it is true without making a claim to special divine authority.
My caution concerns making theology God instead of God God. Loving doing theology rather than loving God.
Sam Crabtree said to me once, “The danger of the contemporary worship awakening is that we love loving God more than we love God.” That was very profound. And you might love thinking about God more than you love God. Or arguing for God more than you love God. Or defending God more than you love God. Or writing about God more than you love God. Or preaching more than you love God. Or evangelizing more than you love God….
But that would be a big caution. We should be intellectually and emotionally more engaged with the person of Christ, the person of God-the Trinity-than we are with thinking about him. Thinking about God and engaging with him are inextricably woven together. But the reason you are reading the Bible, and the reason you are framing thoughts about God from the Bible, is to make your way through those thoughts to the real person.
Coming up at the Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park
We encourage Associates and friends to access events at the Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park. Events coming soon include:
- Fire and Creative Writing: 17-19 August 2012. Led by Philip Muston and Sue Fordham. For those interested in creative writing.
- Wind and Music: 14-16 September 2012. Led by Fay Magee and Don Saines, for those who seek expression through music.
- Exploring Spring: 28-30 September 2012. Led by Marilyn Obersby.
- Earth and Art: 12-14 October 2012. Led by Pene Brook, a must for those who are interested in art and visual expression.
- Water, dance and movement: 9-11 November 2012. Led by Susanna Pain – for those who like to move and dance, reflect and take time to relax.
Support on the journey
The Anam Cara Community’s ministry is to be a support to those who are on the inner journey into God. Each person’s journey is different, and we recognise that there are some for whom the Christian tradition is difficult or not supportive. We’re committed to finding ways to hear the needs of each Associate, and support them as we can.
The Community can offer support in a number of ways:
- Spiritual direction / soul care: Spiritual direction is a process by which one person helps another grow in intimacy with God and in right relationship with all creation. This ministry has a long and revered history in the Christian tradition and has been practised by lay people, religious and ordained ministers. The focus of this ministry is the relationship between God and the person seeking direction. For more information and a referral to a director, contact Colin (0403 776 402 or firstname.lastname@example.org) or Jane (0411 316 346 or email@example.com)
- Quiet days: usually held monthly across Gippsland, and in Canberra. Details are in this newsletter, or on the website.
- Library: maintained in Sale, but available for borrowing by post. Contact Sue (firstname.lastname@example.org, 03 5182 5542) or visit our webpage.
- Publications: Waterholes is the news-magazine of the community. Contributions are welcome.
- Fellowship: Available at our events, by email, on the phone, and the website.
- Website: Full of news, resources, reviews and other interesting information and supports.
- Directing to other resources, such as events at the Abbey of St Barnabas at A’Beckett Park.
Love and prayers
Colin Thornby and Jane Macqueen