The Gathering

DSCN3534Many years ago I awoke and made ready for the day ahead. Spirits soared at the prospect of ascending the lofty ridge towering high above Glen Kingie. My heart leapt in anticipation of standing atop Sgurr Mor to survey the wild and piercingly beautiful handiwork that has emerged from the celestial crucible. A herd of deer leapt with me. Rugged mountains plunged breathlessly into the depths of shimmering sea lochs as the gulls swooped silently below my feet. From the sparkling, tumbling burn I could hear an orchestra of sound as sunlight shimmered and danced on its bustling surface to the ambrosial conductor’s quickening tempo. Isolation amidst raw beauty- wind; sun; rain; river; sea; mountain ridge; the silence of solitude. A time of rejuvenation; of communion with God; of self-discovery.

By the end of the week the silence felt louder than the shrieking winds that seemed to slice through rock itself. My senses were heightened- high mountain grasses thrust skywards like individual spears of rusty red and burnished gold; the cold and hunger made for unwelcome bedfellows; the imposing flanks of Sgurr Mor appeared as monstrous tidal waves looming through the gray and damp mists, threatening to engulf me as readily as the wild beauty was ready to consume me. I felt alive, joyful, and afraid in equal measure.

Following Ash Wednesday, we take those first tentative steps into the lenten journey. Each year as I look inwardly and outwardly, I am reminded again and again of that heady sensation of fear, of joy, and of life I experienced in the mountain wilderness. I bring on this path my successes and my failures, my joys and my sorrows. Every year that we gather we are each drawn, week by week, closer and closer, to our own high mountaintop and to the parapet of the Temple where we feel the tension as our own failings meet with the path Jesus has set out for us to follow. I am not yet ready to gaze upwards at that blood encrusted cross- but at this early stage of the journey I give thanks for the gift of life and the people in it with whom I share its glorious mysteries. And I thank God for the gift of the Church in holding love, grace and forgiveness as lanterns to guide us.

He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. (Luke 4:11 NIV)

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Life and death.

I was reading in church this morning and these readings were a welcome help for me. I talked at the start of Lent that it would be different for me this year, not so much giving something up. Romans has always been a great help to me, I’ve started to appreciate Paul’s writing recently, some may differ. I was looking up the readings online when I was in Uni during the week and didn’t have my Bible and I came across this site with a reflection about each of the passages.

He says what I see in the passages a lot better than I ever could.

Comments by Rev. John Shearman

Summary:
ROMANS 8:6-11
Paul discusses two levels of existence: The
physical which will end when our physical resources are exhausted; and the
spiritual level with the ongoing assurance of life beyond death. Life
focused only in this world is the way to the death that is ultimately
separation from God. The spirit filled life is full of energy and intimacy
with God now and forever.
In depth:
ROMANS 8:6-11 Paul discusses two levels of existence or two principles of
life: the physical which will end when our physical resources are
exhausted; and the spiritual with the ongoing assurance of eternal life.
It is difficult for us who have a relatively comfortable existence with
moderately effective support systems to contemplate exactly what Paul meant
by this contrast. We find it all to easy “to set our minds on the flesh”
and leave whatever lies beyond to theological argument.
In many respects, Paul may have been recalling the two ways of life the
Deuteronomists had set before Israel: the way of life and the way of death.
But the Deuteronomists emphasized obedience to the law of the covenant as
the means of assuring the Israelites a life of security in the land
promised to their patriarchal ancestors forever (Deut. 30:19-20). It is
here that Paul differed with his ancestral tradition. He had a totally
different scenario in mind. Life focussed only on this world and on
satisfying one’s natural impulses is the way to the death that is
ultimately separation from God. This is the end for those who “set their
minds on the flesh.”
Paul wrote after the resurrection of Christ and Pentecost, when the Spirit
the prophet Joel promised would come “in the last days” had actually been
“poured out” on the Christian community. As he says in vs. 9, “the Spirit
of God dwells in you.” For him, the Spirit-filled life is full of energy
and intimacy with God now and forever.
Thus Paul was not dreaming of an other-worldly existence “in the sky by and
by.” He knew full well that every human life must be lived in the real
world. It was the kind of life one lives that is so important to him.
This is nothing short of the life of Christ in us made real and effective
by the work of the Spirit (vs. 10-11).
Equally important in Paul’s thinking is the empowering action of God,
Christ and the Spirit in the life of the ordinary Christian. Nowhere in
the NT is the activity of what the church subsequently defined as the three
Persons of the Trinity more clearly expressed. In this passage the three
are virtually interchangeable. Paul goes so far as to use the two phrases
“the Spirit of God” and the “Spirit of Christ” in successive sentences. He
had fully comprehended the truth that God acted in Jesus Christ, not only
throughout Jesus’ human life and ministry, but especially in raising Jesus
from the dead to be the living Christ present to all believers through the
Spirit actively changing our lives here and now (vs. 11).