Tag Archives: reflections

Prophecy

While our friends were on trial this week, we held banners and handed out leaflets, declaring them prophets. ‘What a hideously grandiose, exaggerated claim!’ was my initial reaction to the idea, to the suggestion that any person might be able to adequately fulfil all all the necessary requirements to be able to claim that their words and actions are prophetic, not least people I knew! I felt uncomfortable with the idea that we might claim to carry a truth that others didn’t know – ‘surely we’re all as broken and lost as each other?’ I found myself asking – ‘who are we to judge?’

However, as we prepared for the days of solidarity outside the court, and especially sitting in the public gallery watching some of those same people take the stand to explain to the magistrate why they had taken the action they had, I began to feel more and more comfortable with the word. This was because my original understanding of prophecy had been of lone, angry voices sat on the outside of society, bellowing down it’s criticism from lofty heights, but not involving itself in the world. However, what activists – prophets – actually do, is to act in a way that’s integral to society, and is deeply rooted in our communities, and in the earth. When my friends took their action, they identified deeply with those directly affected by war and violence in the world, and sat alongside them in love. They demanded that we imagine a world where it is neither possible nor necessary for a tiny minority of people to profit so greatly from death and destruction.

I had been thinking of prophecy as something hierarchical, of something some are preordained to do, while others blindly follow. Actually, it feels like something anyone can do, if they can think of a world rooted in peace and justice. At Greenbelt a few years ago, Barbara Glasson spoke of ‘prophetic communities’  – those who are living lives of peace, equality and justice (she identified the LGBT and environmental communities as two examples) that we might hope all would aspire to. Prophecy is active, and identifies with the oppressed and marginalised, and with that inner, hidden voice which says “this is not the way the world needs to be!” Acting prophetically in this manner invariably creates conflict, because we are challenging society and ourselves to imagine something different to what it currently is, and it is conflict that drives and inspires change. Thinking of conflict – in it’s nonviolent forms – as positive is deeply liberating. This was a form of prophecy I could get behind!

Activists – from the great and famous to the nameless and forgotten – should be considered prophets, because they carry an understanding of what it might mean to create a world of peace, love and justice. Many of them choose nonviolent means in order to articulate this, and they power change in our societies by creating conflict, by demonstrating the injustice of the system, and they do this not by sitting outside of society and simply bellowing their critique, but by rooting themselves centrally in society, living, working and breathing with and amongst their community.

In peace.

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The face of Christ

This week, I attended a vigil in Hackney, to remember the life and death of a local man who had been living on the streets.  For half an hour, we stood at the spot where Miro was assaulted, which left him with the injuries that he later died of.  We stood in the dark, and the rain, and remembered his life.  We remembered his wife, child and friends in Poland.  We remembered the often cruel and unforgiving economic systems that lead people into such hardship. We remembered that Miro died alone, and we remembered that we knew little about Miro, the nature of his life on our doorsteps, how far removed we all were from his experience.

During the service, we heard a reading from Matthew, chapter 25;

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick, or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’.”

Hearing these words, in that setting, was sobering. To see – in the face of the hungry or thirsty, the lonely or sick, imprisoned, homeless, destitute, war ravaged – the face of the divine – what can that possibly mean?   For me, a tentative answer is that this passage is telling us that it is not the case that, because we work for peace and justice for – and alongside – the oppressed and marginalised, we might encounter God in some utterly distant realm beyond this life, as a ‘reward’ for our ‘good deeds’. Instead, it seems that the encounter with the oppressed and marginalised is the encounter with God, that it is there that we find eternal life.  In this parable, eternal life is built in our relationships, interactions, our work, our pursuits, and critical to that is a life lived in solidarity with the marginalised and oppressed.

This notion – of Christ being absolutely present in the midst of our world – is one that has particular resonances at Christmas.  For me, the incarnation is the move from God being utterly beyond, distant, to God being utterly present, in our midst, becoming completely vulnerable to the ways of our world.  In the story of the birth of Jesus, we find an image of the divine which forces us to stop looking beyond our own lives, away from our own world, as disconnected from our own communities, to a God we discover absolutely in our midst, as inseparable from the reality of ourselves and our sisters and brothers, as intrinsic to the very fabric of our social reality.   My encounter this week at the vigil reminded me of the essential truth of Christ – that to claim a new-born child in first century Palestine is divine means nothing nothing, unless we can also sit with a homeless man, in London, in the 21st century, and see Christ.

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Reflections from Ireland

From Waterfallswimmer:

I’m enjoying reading and discussing John Dear’s book ‘Lazarus, Come Forth’ as part of our continuing shared journey of nonviolence. Something I read last week resonated with me and I’ve been able to think more deeply about it so thought I’d share that here. Firstly I’ll quote the passage from page 15 in the section entitled ‘The Kingdom of Death, the culture of Violence’

“Life is hard, life is a struggle. For many, life means only death. People all over the world are stooped under the burden of hunger and war, ignorance and neglect. They flee and die under the military adventures of the superpowers and elsewhere under the terrors of tribal warlords. Many labor for little; many come to early and unjust deaths. And over us all hovers the spectre of nuclear weapons and environmental destruction, both a result of a few thousand rich people spawning an epidemic of corporate greed. To protect their global control, their “national interests,” their “way of life,” sleek armies march and drill all over the globe……… Alas, this seems to be the way of the world – a kingdom altogether different from the Kingdom of God. Call it the kingdom of death, and how hard for our transfixed minds to concede its reign. There is in the nature of deathly powers something elusive. Hectic and threatening and adroit at covering their tracks, they ensnare and overwhelm us; they exhaust out mental capacities, feeble as they often are. In biblical parlance, they possess us.”

Lately I’ve been feeling very much ensnared and overwhelmed by injustices in the city I live in, the country I live in and the world I live in. This feeling takes over mentally and then physically. It’s beyond words and description but I become unsure of what I can do to change things, to bring life, and am left with a sense that maybe there isn’t anything I can do that could make a difference.

However, last weekend I found myself on the West Coast of Ireland for a swimming event in Killary Fjord which leads to the sea between mountains – a breathtaking place to be. I was walking by the water and mountains as the sun was setting and the sky turned from bright blue to deep orange and then purple, reflected in the water as the mountains slowly became silhouettes. It was so beautiful, again beyond words and I was overwhelmed by it and if I had to use words I might use love, peace and hope.

I realised that this came from the same place in my being as the feelings I might call pain, despair and hopelessness when I’m aware of and ensnared by injustices. It was the same energy but manifesting in different, almost opposite ways.

This is helping and encouraging me because I now know that if I’m feeling hopeless I can find hope in the same place, if I’m feeling pain or despair I can find love and peace in the same place.

I may find myself in the midst of a human-created culture of death, but no matter what is happening in the world around me there is life within me, I’d call it God, and even if its hard to reach I know it’s there and will keep me searching for and walking on the path of nonviolence.

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