ENOUGH NATTERING

20120208-224809.jpg

I KNOW I SUGGESTED only yesterday that I’m more than just a bit grateful for those who shoulder the responsibilities of General Synod membership, doubting my own ability and / or willingness so to do. (PCC’s about my synodical limit). And I know I smiled when I read Bishop Nick Baines’ Catch up the other day:

if it wasn’t clear before, it should be obvious now that some circles simply cannot be squared. I am not aware of anyone – of any persuasion – who is looking forward with unalloyed joy to this week’s debates.

But nonetheless I wish I’d been in London this morning to hear the ABC at the Synod Eucharist. And to thank God for him. No matter how despondent I sometimes feel about the quality of the life of the Church of England generally today I am never, never despondent about Archbishop Rowan. I feel that at heart he speaks for me from the praying heart of a priest; that he speaks to and for the hearts of countless “witterers” and that, in his own heart and experience, he really does understand something of the “churning around inside” that goes on in wittering lesser mortals like me. Doesn’t he hit the nail on the head here? …

… we ought to remember that of course this is God’s future we’re talking about. And God’s future is by no means the same as the future we try to create for ourselves, and imagine for ourselves. That’s the challenge of discernment in the Holy Spirit. We’re asking not for a foretaste of the future we would like, we are planning, we are working for; we ask for a foretaste of God’s future. And once we put it like that, we realise of course that sinful and stupid as we are, we haven’t got a clue about God’s future. And so we come in prayer to the Holy Spirit, very much with empty hands and longing hearts and relatively blank minds. We come in exactly that state of wittering, inarticulate confusion that St Paul so wonderfully describes as the state of Christian prayer. We do not know how to pray as we ought to. Our prayer is a bundle of distractions and longings, hopes and anxieties, churning around inside, and somehow, upheld, shot through, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us. Somehow the Holy Spirit is constantly winnowing out the nonsense from our longing and hopes, and pushing us towards that future, God’s future, of which we can have so little a picture.

And yet, having said we haven’t got a clue what God’s future looks like, as a matter of fact that’s not the case. What does God’s future look like? Well, one thing we can say is that it looks like Jesus. And that’s why what we wait for, what we long for – God’s future – is our redemption. We ourselves have had the first fruits of the spirit grow inwardly while we wait for adoption. The redemption of our bodies for in hope we were saved.

full homily text and video here © Rowan Williams 2012

The future looks like Jesus … so, the future will probably be heavily weighted towards affording women absolutely proper, necessary and equal status; would respect the dignity and untold worth of all shapes, sizes, colours, creeds and the many other temporal orientations of a wide-world’s-worth of human persons; would teach and preach with relevant simplicity and humility; wouldn’t be afraid of affection, children, emotion, failure, laughter, illness, intimacy, politicians, questioning, religious authorities, or sexuality; would have a ready empathy with – and a natural incination towards – friendship / colleagueship with outcasts and ordinary folks, little life celebrations, wholeness and holiness, and a gracious and compassionate leading out of “things now hidden in darkness” into God’s eternally new and creative light.

Thank God for Archbishop Rowan. I thank God that a future that looks like Jesus will be, notwithstanding the best efforts of contemporary religious nattering, inevitably and eternally bright. Transfigured. A lifting and a glorious revelation of the Divine beauty in all things – witterers and “others” included – beyond the present limits of our sight.

Thanks be to God that “God is”, as God’s Archbishop of Canterbury has it, “God’s future.”

CONSECRATION AND FULFILMENT

20120207-234801.jpg

GENERAL SYNOD has been on my mind! And my mind both wandered and trembled a little (a kind of mental palpitations!) whilst reading the Agenda from the safe distance – and relative peace and quiet – of my vicarage in Bramhall. I’m grateful for those who are possessed of a synodically-minded constitution and am mindful that they’ve got a lot on their plates this week. And that mindfulness has had me thinking some more about what it means when we speak of being “the beloved of God” – male or female, straight or gay, in the “prime of life”, or towards “its closing day”.

Does the synodical environment make it easier to remember our human beloved-ness, or harder? “Is it possible,” asked a beloved (and at the time fairly conservative) bishop friend of mine, “to legislate for love?” What does “salvation” mean for a Church struggling with internal divisions and apparently circular questions on the one hand and circular certainties on the other?

How is it ever possible for anyone to jump down from the merry-go-round in order to have a bit of a rethink? Where is grace to be found in the Church of England this week? Where is grace to be found in what Robert Davis Hughes calls Beloved Dust

In short, what we call the entire “economy of salvation” from creation through the covenant with Israel, through the Christ event, through the whole subsequent history of the church and the world to the moment we begin to notice is already filled with “grace” in two senses: the entire story is a story of God’s graciousness in and toward creation, and indeed begins in the self-expression of God, the Fount of all Being in an Other, the Word/Wisdom, by the power of the Holy Spirit; second, it is a story, from start to finish, of the mission of the Holy Spirit, from her first mysterious involvement in the generation of God’s triadic unity to her own proper mission in the consecration and fulfilment of all things.

Beloved Dust: Tides of the Spirit in the Christian Life, Robert Davis Hughes III, page 72, Continuum, 2008

Consecration and fulfilment of all things … the mission of the Holy Spirit … my palpitations are quietening, and I turn to my silent night prayer. Consecration and fulfilment of ALL things …

May it be so. Holy Spirit is at work. We must trust her.