In times past the nomad people of the dessert would gather at night around a blazing fire. Under a twinkling sky and in the shadow of the celestial tent they would make deals and trade goods; they would share food and break bread; they would recount tales of stories old, and they would play music and dance.
As the dancers performed their customary routines, once in a while a dancer would stand out from the rest and capture the hearts of the crowd with their unique grace and beauty. In each movement and twirl the power of the dance would manage to stir up profound emotions. The magic of the dance would resonate deeply within the souls of those present, leading them to places of spiritual enlightenment.
People knew this was not an ordinary dance, but one of exceptional and special meaning and they responded accordingly, chanting and clapping with exhilaration, ‘Allah! Allah! Allah!’ As they glimpsed the divine they knew in their hearts that this dance was coming from ‘Allah’, from God, the source of the creative impulse and imagination in us all. When these tribes of North Africa settled in the south of Spain they brought with them their customs and traditions and the chants of ‘Allah’ become one of ‘Olé!’
The biblical story of Bezalel, the craftsman appointed by God to do the artistic works of the Tabernacle, asserts very clearly that beauty in all its delight and disturbing qualities comes from God: “I have given him understanding, skill, and ability for every kind of artistic work”.
As we enter the Season of Advent that leads us to the birth of Christ, we should take the opportunity to celebrate God’s creative way of bringing salvation to the world, and hail the imaginative and creative person, who was Jesus Christ, the story-teller, who spoke in a profound way about the mystery and wisdom of God.
We should celebrate our imagination which can achieve amazing things; nobody thought that an “art installation” of a few tents outside a church would incite such a reaction and debate in society. It did. Imagination is a powerful thing. This Christmas let us renew our calling to be a creative community in the world.
On this day in 1517 Martin Luther nailed in the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg his 95 theses. That symbolic act changed the church and the history of Western Europe forever. The OLSX have become the nails and the living arguments against an institutional church that has lost its credibility and moral compass. The church will not be the same again.
St. Teresa of Jesus (of Avila) “The important thing is not to think much but to love much”. “The soul's progress does not lie in thinking much but in loving much”. “Let nothing trouble you, let nothing frighten you. All things are passing; God never changes”
Francis of Assisi Today we remember this wonderful man of God.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace, Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life”
Chau, Chau Facundo Las Franciscas lloran pero no es por ti
La trágica muerte de Facundo Cabral, el viejo canta-autor argentino nos tomo por sorpresa. Fue en Guatemala donde la muerta lo encontró distraído. Cabral era de esa generación de folklóricos que cantaban a la tierra, a los oprimidos, ‘artista comprometido’, anti- imperialista, tirando más para la izquierda, pero jamás para la derecha. La gente le dijo adiós cantando ‘chau, chau Facundo’…debe ser bonito que de digan adiós así. "no soy de aquí ni soy de allá" cantaba Cabral, el artesano de poesía y música que caló hondo en el alma de su Latinoamérica sufrida y golpeada por injusticias y corrupción. Ironía de la vida como murió el trovador. Facunda Cabral murió acribillado por sicarios buscando venganza. Las balas que lo acribillaron no eran para el pero para Henry Fariñas Fonseca, su promotor, el hombre que organizo sus conciertos en Guatemala y se lo llevaba a Nicaragua. Fariñas Fonseca es un conocido empresario del espectáculo y dueño de una cadena de clubs nocturnos llamados Elite Night Club, donde según la promesa “our divas will make you feel like you are in paradise” a un precio, claro está, porque en este business todo tiene un precio, las bellas carnes son commodities en el mercado del sexo. No soy ‘moralista’ ni ‘puritano’ pero me cuesta entender que un cantante que dedico su vida a contar las historias de los oprimidos, andaba de copas y en negocios con un hombre de esa calaña. Se requiere cierta ambigüedad moral para asociarse con alguien que usa la necesidad para explotar mujeres en el negocio del sexo con precio. Esto me entristece, que algunos en la izquierda hayan perdido sus compas moral. Quizá Cabral se olvido del las muchas Franciscas que su paisano León Gieco inmortalizo en una canción
“En una casa del barrio San Pedro Francisca muestra todo su cuerpo pone el dinero entre sus senos toma un vino negro y algunas ginebras Viste de verde, viste de rosa y se desviste muy silenciosa”
Si en vez de pensar en los dólares, Facundo hubiera dicho no, asunto de principio, solidaridad con las muchas ‘Franciscas’ que trabajan en la industria del sexo, usando sus cuerpos para ganarse unos pesos, soñando que algún empresario o turista la hará su princesa. Cabral por unos dólares perdiste la vida. Me da pena que Rigoberta Manchú cuando lamento la muerte de su amigo no recordó a las Franciscas que ese promotor explota pero busco echarle la culpa a la derecha por conspirar la muerte del canta-autor. Si tan solo Facundo hubiera mantenido sus principios, hoy no estaríamos llorando esta tragedia.
Chau, chau Facundo, no eres de aquí ni eres de allá.
PRAYER I grew up being taught that prayer was a conversation with God.
It was a tradition that emphasised the spontaneous free speaking to God. Language with all its beautiful possibilities and obvious limitations was the way to pray. But, if I’m honest I should concede that quite often this conversation became a monologue of fancy words to praise God or, at its worst, a “shopping list” of requests. I knew this wasn’t right, but I didn’t know better.
To be honest, at some point, I stopped praying and eventually gave up prayer altogether. After a while, after a series of experiences, I re-discovered prayer again. I was learning not just from my own Anglican spirituality, but also from other enriching Christian traditions. I have found this to be an inspiring and challenging experience that has opened my eyes to new possibilities.
The way I pray and my understanding of prayer has changed as my faith journey has lead me to different places and experiences: from verbal Rococo to minimalistic silence; from contemplating an Icon or lighting a candle to absorbing the beauty of creation or engaging in the creative endeavour; from doing prayers to being a prayer. At the point in my journey where I am now I am more convinced as never before of the importance of prayer in our lives. Prayer is a way to connect with God, to connect with ourselves, and to connect with others. That is what prayer is at its core.
“It clearly appears that there are no races in the world, however rude, uncultivated, barbarous, gross, or almost brutal they may be, who cannot be persuaded and brought to a good order and way of life, and made domestic, mild and tractable, provided ... the method that is proper and natural to men is used that is, love and gentleness and kindness.”
Bartolomé de Las Casas Apostle of the Indies 1484 - 1566 Commemoration 20 July
THE HISTORY OF LOVE Ysgubor Llwyn-y-Ffynnon 5 May 2011 – 7.45 am
BOOKS FIND US When is the time and we are ready, they find their way to us.
THE BOOK In our penultimate day of holidays in this beautiful remote cottage in north Wales, it found me. I was browsing one of the many bookshelves replete with books and the book pop out to me. I pick it up. I browsed inside and the words ‘Barth mitzvah’ caught my eyes. I felt the urgency to read it.
READ I began to read while keeping an eye on Paquito [our French bulldog] I breathe the fresh air of a new day and I read I welcome the day with gracious and grateful heart...I read I let the dramatic landscape to embrace me...I read I make a cup of tea for Marie... I read Paquito and I join her in bed...I read I make breakfast...I read We eat... I read I do the washing up...I read I go to the toilet...I read Poland, Jews, South America, Peru, llamas, Argentina, Chile, Oxford, manuscripts, New York...I read
PAUSE 4.15 pm We drove to MACHYNLLETH with the radio on; BBC 4 ...at the end of the show ‘Bookclub’ James Naughtie announced that next book for June's Bookclub will be 'The History of Love' by Nicole Krauss... WHAT AN AMAZING COINCIDENCE! Back to the cottage we eat fish and ships...I read Marie dispensed me from all my domestic duties...I read Paquito join me in the sofa...we read We all sit in the sofa to watch ‘Chocolate’...I read. Goodnight said Marie...I read
NEXT DAY 6 May 2011 – 6.30 am I got up early...I read I did all the same as yesterday...I read We finish breakfast...I read...the last words... I FINISH! Leo, Alma, Charlotte, Zvi, Bruno, Bird, all stayed with me… What a great book.
BOOKS FIND US When is the time and we are ready, they find their way to us.
The Cross The cross, I said to my congregation, is a paradox symbol of human despair and hope. The cross of Christ holds together in creative tension the distress and aspirations of the human soul, the dreams and failures, heaven and hell, life and death. To understand the real meaning of the cross we need to engage with this paradox of the cross.
Distress and hope are part of our human experience, shared by other fellow travellers in all times and places. Both are part of our life, journey, story and conversation with God. The experience of despair and hope is real in our life, as it is bestowed in the cross. Jesus invited us to carry our cross, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Jesus’ invitation is to embrace the cross that will bind us together with the distress and hope of humanity: the solidarity of the cross.
The Salvadorian cross that depicts scenes of everyday community life is a creative and clever way to raise awareness that our whole life, distress and hopes, are part of God’s economy in the cross. In the cross we hear our own cry, “Father why have you forsaken me?” We hear the cry of the poor of the earth, “Father why have you forsaken us?” In the cross we come together, we are bound together. In the cross we also hear whispers of new beginnings, the promises of a new tomorrow...possibilities.
After this brief introduction I gave to each person in the congregation a sheet of paper printed with the shape of a cross, an empty cross. Then I invited them to write inside the cross a word or to draw a picture of places, people or situations where they felt there is despair and distress. This could be their own, from others or both.
In reverent silence they did just that. Then I invited them do the same again but this time they would have to write or draw a picture of all the things they hope to see changing in themselves and the world.
In reverent silence they did just that. Then I told them that these things they have drawn or written in the cross are the things that matters to them, the things they feel passionate about, these are the things that make up the people they are.
“This is your cross”, I said. Then I invited them to write their names on the cross. We spent some time in silence and stillness, meditating on our cross and in what we had done.
At the end some folded the cross and took it with them, others took my invitation: “During the music,” I said, “you are invited if, you wish, to place your cross at the altar in our basket of prayers.” And, in reverent silence, and solidarity, some laid their own cross for blessing, for humankind, for hope.
Passover Prayer Long ago, at this season, on such a night as this, a people - our people - set out on a journey. All but crushed by their enslavement, they yet recalled the far-off memory of a happier past.
And heard the voice of their ancestral God, bidding them summon up the courage to be free.
Boldly, they went forth from Egypt, crossed the Sea, and headed through the desert for the Promised Land.
What they experienced, they remembered, and told their children, and they to theirs.
From generation to generation, the story was retold, and we are here to tell it yet again.
We too give thanks for Israel's liberation; we too remember what it means to be a slave.
And so we pray for all who are still fettered, still denied their human rights. Let all God's children sit at his table, drink the wine of deliverance, and eat the bread of freedom:
freedom from bondage and freedom from oppression, freedom from hunger and freedom from want, freedom from hatred and freedom from fear, freedom to think and freedom to speak, freedom to learn and freedom to love, freedom to hope and freedom to rejoice; soon in our days,
“The next day the great crowd that had come for the festival heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Blessed is the king of Israel!” Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, as it is written” John 12:12-14
“This is the mission entrusted to the church, a hard mission: to uproot sins from history, to uproot sins from political order, to uproot sins from the economy, to uproot sins wherever they are. What a hard task!...”
MEDIO SIGLO “When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely”. I Corinthians 13: 11-12
‘Medio siglo’, translates to a ‘half-century’ and it is an expression my father used when we were children to remind us of his superior age. This advanced to ‘un siglo’, a century, when he felt he had come of age, sometime in his mid seventies! As well as having a sense of mischievousness my father also liked the idea being able to achieve a long and full life, and of this would proclaim he had notched up ‘un siglo de vida’, a century of life! There was a certain endearment in this expression and as the years passed by and we children grew older I, too, anticipated its use!
When my father died he was still quite a way off his actual ‘un siglo de vida’, but he had this idea that he could somehow be like Dorian Grey and life would never end; again that mischievousness. In the years that followed I had time to contemplate that same ominous expression ‘medio siglo’ until finally it was my turn to proclaim it.
The truth is I do not feel my half-century has been that long at all! I suppose from now on life will start to get shorter rather than longer. Apart from this I really do not know what to make of the implications of reaching my half a century of existence. If life is about changes then, yes, I have changed with time, but also there is something, like an essence of who I am, that is unchanged, and which I think will always remain the same whatever the age.
However, whilst arriving at my own ‘medio siglo’ more questions about my own mortality have emerged: How much time might I have left? What might I do with the rest of my life? How might I make best use of my time? Etc. I wonder what the answers are, and feel a pressing need to seek out what the Bible has to say about this, or what the ancients, or the wise, or creative say.
Some people believe that the recipe to best deal with our inevitable mortality is to ‘live everyday as if it is the last’. It is a nice thought, a good principle for life, a noble idea to aspire to. But, if I am totally honest, it is just wishful thinking to ‘live every day as if it is the last’. If I was to live every day as if it were the last it would be a frantic day! Twenty-four hours of chaos trying to decide what to do, to say, to write, to paint...to eat. There would be no rests, nor pauses, no time for that; there would be so much to do...to see...before I go. It would be a woeful, mad day.
I am afraid I cannot live like that, it is not my way. I prefer to take each day as it always is: a quiet surprise, because there is always something one doesn’t quite expect to happen, even with all the advance planning we tend to do nowadays. And this is enough for me. I love the sorts of days when I feel life smiles on me and everything goes well. There is a sense of having achieved something and at the end of the day I am left feeling rewarded intellectually, emotionally, spiritually and I smile back on life.
There are also days when life is not so pleasant. There are grumpy faces greeting me instead of smiling ones....everywhere! At the end of days like these I feel I have achieved little and that I am going nowhere, the day is just an empty day. The other sort of day I have are days when I am not here, not there, just lost.
No matter what the day turns out to be like, my ‘medio siglo’ has taught me to be grateful, to be more respectful to the kind of day I have, and to just BE present in the day. When I say “Thank You” to God at the end of each day before I fall asleep I really mean it.
When a day is good it is easy to be grateful. When the day brings a ‘nothingness’ I remind myself I am surrounded by a devoted wife, mother, sisters, family, friends, parishioners [at least some] and a dog, and they really love me, care for me and hold me in their prayers and thoughts.
I am grateful because at the end of the day everything in this life is about GRACE. To receive it, to give it...it took me my own ‘medio siglo’ to arrive at this place and see it in this way.
There are reports in the news today that more people will reach one hundred years of life...if that is the case I look forward to say one day ‘un siglo de vida’ [a century of life]...if not I will always keep saying THANKS.
PAROUSIA “Every one will see him coming in the clouds…”
By Ernesto Lozada-Uzuriaga
When Tele-evangelist Dr Paul Linton, president of Kingdom Broadcasting Network [KBN] received an unexpected code-note with the word “Parousia” from his friend Professor Ezra Horowitz, he immediately knew what it meant: the young researcher from the University of Jerusalem had finally decoded the most important event of human history, the second coming of Jesus Christ. Paul Linton has dreamed of broadcasting “live and exclusive” the second coming of Christ to the whole world. He now sees this as a real possibility as never before. Seeking support for this costly venture he summons his trustees to persuade them to invest in this project, without realising that this meeting will trigger a furious and violent race to try to obtain the Parousia date from the Professor.
Dr Linton’s son Tim, in Jerusalem to acquire the disc with the information from Professor Horowitz, finds that the Professor is missing and that his family has been murdered. He and Liz Roth, a minister and trustee of KBN, embark on a search for the Professor and from that moment find themselves involved in a web of intrigue, facing ruthless people prepared to do anything to get hold of the information.
Meanwhile, Professor Ezra Horowitz has found protection with a mysterious Palestinian man called Melquizedec. This encounter will change his ideas about what he is doing, and will strengthen his determination to fulfil his destiny.
Tim and Liz, tipped off about where to find Professor Horowitz, have been spied upon by Mossad agents on behalf of a powerful patron, also eager to obtain the Parousia date. When they finally meet Professor Horowitz, they realise they are not the only ones who have found him; there is no room for negotiation and no way out. As the last resort, Professor Horowitz threatens to destroy the disc if Tim and Liz are not allowed to leave safely, and when it seems that the information of the Parousia date is about to be destroyed, there is a dramatic twist in events.
Parousia is a graphic religious thriller, inspired by the furore of religious speculation regarding the second coming of Christ and the sometimes absurd world of religious broadcasting, with the backdrop of the current political events in the Holy Land.
John3:16 Do you remember seeing a guy, who was sitting in a crowd and holding up a sign that read, ‘John 3:16’? Millions of people who switch on their TV’s to watch the World Cup, the Super Bowl, the Olympic Games or any big sporting occasion must surely have seen this guy sitting in the crowds with a sign that did not say, ‘Hello Mum’, as is quite popular, but one that read, ‘John 3:16’. That was clever. He took full advantage of global broadcasting to maximise exposure of his message...for free! Very imaginative. Yes, it is true millions saw this sign but, the question is how many people got the message? How many people knew what John 3:16 means? Probably not many. I fear this guy, despite all his good intentions and imagination, made the assumption that millions of people around the world will understand the meaning and significance of a sign that read, ‘John 3:16’. This story is a poignant parable for the church today because sadly quite often we make the same assumption that un-churched people understand our biblical jargon. The reality is that for many people the language we use, the images we use, the metaphors we use to communicate the Good News of Christ are not accessible. Most people simply don’t understand what we are talking about. As we become more secular and our Christian heritage is disappearing from its public place, the biblical stories and themes have become alien to many people. Today, signs that read, ‘John 3:16’ are incomprehensible, obscure, esoteric; un-accessible... They need decoding. The Gospel reading this morning was John 3:1-17, which tells us about the encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus. In this passage we see the emerging ways to explain spiritual truth (Jesus) and the inability of institutional religion (Nicodemus) to grasp the simple and profound wisdom of the emerging spirituality. Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again." But, Nicodemus didn’t understand. “How can a man be born when he is old?" he asked, "Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother's womb to be born!" The problem was not Jesus, the problem was Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a very religious man, he was a Pharisee. A learned man, knowledgeable on theological matters, and deeply rooted in the study of Scriptures and Jewish tradition, but despite all this he was unable to understand a very simple spiritual metaphor, you have to be ‘born again’. The encounter enables Jesus to expose what is fundamentally flawed about institutional religion, which is its inability to move with the times...with the Spirit. In many ways the institutional church is like Nicodemus. We are so absorbed by our own religious culture and our reductionist world view. We are so wrapped up with our own ecclesiastic traditions, so busy entertaining ourselves (and we call it worship). We are so occupied amusing ourselves (and we call it signs and wonders). We have become so inward-looking, insular and dangerously arrogant; intolerant, ignoring and dismissing, a priori, different ways to explain spiritual experiences and awareness of God by spiritual seekers. We hadn’t listened; even worse, we still make the assumption, like the guy with his sign in the crowds that our institutional language will reach out to spiritual seekers, that they will understand the message of God. Very soon we could become irrelevant, redundant, being something that many un-churched people do not understand, like a sign in the crowds that reads, ‘John 3:16’...
Star Walkers The Nazca Lines are one of the most amazing man-made marvels of the world. They are a series of huge pre-Columbian figures drawn into the dusty desert floor of Peru. One of the mysteries of these lines is that they can only be seen from the air. I have flown over the lines a couple of times; the last time was with Marie who, despite the dizziness, sickness, and worry because of the care-free, Top Gun style of the pilot [one hand on map the other pointing to the lines!] managed to really enjoy the experience with me.
Many have attempted to explain the raison d'être of these mysterious lines with all sorts of theories and sometimes eccentric explanations. But, there is something that is certain: these figures [geometrical lines, humming bird, spider, dog, monkey, alien, etc.] were all made by people of faith and imagination, seeking to engage the gods in desperate times of environmental disorder. It is also certain that the lines were guided by the stars as they were in alignment with the heavens. Local archaeologists have come with a most likely theory about the lines. They have suggested that the Nazca Lines where used for religious rituals, in the same way ancient Christians used the labyrinth, Nazca people used the lines to walk as they prayed and chanted to the gods, led by their priest. Because the Lines were in alignment with the stars of the sky these people were not just walking a dusty labyrinth in the desert; in their mind they were, in fact, walking in the celestial heavens in the stars... they were cosmic pilgrims!
That thought touches me deeply, in a very emotional way. It reminds me of our own relationship with the cosmic order... The words Jesus spoke to Peter come to mind, too:
"And that's not all. You will have complete and free access to God's kingdom, keys to open any and every door: no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven. A yes on earth is yes in heaven. A no on earth is no in heaven."
Matthew 16:19 (The Message)
If only we could have the same awareness the Nazca people had, our journey in this life would be travelled in deep cosmic awareness where there are “no more barriers between heaven and earth, earth and heaven”, and we would all be walking those very same stars in heaven too.
“The abstract works of Ernesto Lozada-Uzuriaga Steele, a Peruvian-born artist-priest who lives in the rural southeast of England, reveals both the richness of his native culture and the influence of Western tradition. His brightly hued paintings "Olive Tree II" and "Olive Tree III" are real standouts in this exhibit for their unique combination of texture and color, which creates a sense of high drama from otherwise-simple shapes” Kurt Shaw, Pittsburgh art critic.
Pittsburgh art critic, Kurt Shaw, reviewed this year’s exhibition with an article in The Pittsburgh Tribune Review. The article, entitled 10th year of ‘Art Inter/National’ has widest palette yet, appears in the Entertainment Section of Wednesday, January 5th’s paper. To view the article online, please follow this direct link: http://pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/ae/museums/s_716760.html