For my All Saints’ sermon this Sunday, I was captivated by some reflections on the word ‘haunted’. Then I got to wondering how the characters in the gospel reading (the story of the raising of Lazarus) might have experienced being ‘haunted’.

Let there be dark! The days grow shorter and the darkness grows. This is the time, the season when we might dare to face that which haunts us.

First a reflection on the word ‘haunted’, then an imagination of how the characters in the gospel story might experience haunting – and how we might also experience haunting – for this is also our story.

Haunted is a word that describes something alongside that is unresolved, shadowy – a presence that is not quite a presence. It is something about longing, wanting, of not yet .. of not finding a home in this world or in the next. Haunted is someone or something that walks the halls of our house or our mind looking for what will help to lay its own self to rest.

Like the spirits and half-beings we imitate at Halloween, we roam the streets as if looking for a place on this earth we are unable to locate, .. wondering if there really will ever be a new heaven and a new earth.

We cease to be haunted and hurt when we stop being afraid of making what has been untouchable, real: especially our understandings of the past; and especially those we wronged, those we were wronged by, or those we did not help. We become real by forgiving ourselves and we forgive ourselves by changing the pattern, and especially by changing our present behaviour to those we have hurt. And we can be saved.

We stop being afraid when we give away what was never ours in the first place and begin to be present to our own lives just as we find them. Even as we look into the darkness, facing what we have banished from our thoughts and made homeless, we can be saved. Even when we do not know how to respond to the call ‘ Come out!’ we can be saved. When we make a friend of what we previously could not face, what once hurt and haunted us now becomes an invisible, parallel ally, a beckoning hand to our future. We are in good company. Then, maybe we can wake into our lives again, as if for the first time.

Now, stepping into the gospel story …

I am Mary. My brother is dead. I am haunted by my grief. My eyes are sore, I have cried so much. Why does everything bad seem to happen to us? Lazarus was only a child when our parents died. Martha and I brought him up ourselves. Becoming orphans was hard enough, but the loss of a brother feels harder. Who will wipe away my tears?

I am Martha, the practical one. I am haunted by what I could not do. I am the one who, with Mary, brought up my brother. I nursed him in his last illness. I made all the arrangements for his burial. I didn’t cry like my sister, though my grief is still real. I did not do enough to save him.

I am Lazarus. They tell me I was dead. I am haunted by the memory, like a bad dream, of the shadowy cave and the piercing light beyond the cool stone. I was scared. Hands came and untied the strips around me. They say I should rejoice that life has begun again for me.  But I want to go back into the comforting darkness. I am afraid of living.

I am Jesus. Mary, Martha, Lazarus are my friends. Their home became a place where I felt safe, where I could truly be myself. I am haunted by the voice that calls me beloved and that I heard even in the darkness of the water when John pulled me up into the light of day, that day of my baptism. What I did today, for Lazarus, shocked, amazed, angered, revealed. Life will never be the same again for Lazarus, for Martha, for Mary and for me. Am I truly beloved? I took the risk to keep on giving, to keep on loving.

Let there be dark! All Saints Day is a precious time to remember who the saints are – that they are those who show us how to face the darkness and not to be overcome by it. All Saints’ Day is a precious time which beckons us to face the darkness, to attend to our haunting and our restlessness, – our fear, our grief, our powerlessness, our capacity to let go and love, and find even in the shadows of awareness, in the crevices of memory, in the landscape of our dreams, find even there a blessing and a way to take the next step of faith. (Jan Richardson).

based on reflection by David Whyte From CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words. © David Whyte:

and Fire and Bread reflections © Ruth Burgess 2006, p 54-58

Cobweb in Claydon churchyard

Cobweb in Claydon churchyard

Play time

Anything with the word ‘play’ in it immediately draws my attention. Why? Well, I need to play, basically! I notice that since I’ve been ordained I have found ways to give myself permission to play. I’ve been drawn to play with words in storytelling. I’ve been drawn to play with singing. I’ve been drawn to the Godly Play approach to discipleship and exploring the language of faith. I’ve been drawn to drawing and doodling prayers.

I’m about to start an online course, called ‘Exploring Play’. So far the participants are introducing themselves. Some (like myself) a little shyly and others with paragraphs packed with descriptions of experience and expectations. There are common themes: curiosity, learning, fun, stretch, pondering, passion, work, time, creativity, risk …

Why think about play, when all around us is so much that might cause us to despair? Because play can dare us to face dark, dangerous places and times, tapping into our sometimes underused imagination and finding ways to respond. Play can invite us into doing serious work, it can beckon us to find the delight of true rejoicing, play can put us back into good relationship with the world around us, with other people, with ourselves … with God.

As the seasons change once more, as autumn playfully colours the land and Advent peeps out of the darkening skies, maybe play will be a good ministerial companion. The playgroup that is the community of God continues to draw me, and keeps drawing us into becoming radical, playful and compassionate communities.

It is time. Let us play.

Let us colour over the

faithful lines of life.

May it be so.

This blog has appeared as a community email linked to RevGalBlogPals http://revgalblogpals.org/

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A kind-of summary of what I did as part of the #30dayswild challenge. I wrote some haikus which can be seen on my twitter page. https://twitter.com/revhillers/with_replies

30 days wild calendar

30 days wild calendar

Now I’m going to have a bit of a break from a daily doodle. Though I’m sure that I’ll return to it in good time.

This is what I am doing for June:

http://www.mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild/

I love this idea of random acts of wildness, of remembering how much we need the wild.

Here are a couple of haikus I’ve written for the first couple of days:

The sound of wind down the chimney: wild singing to celebrate June.

Raindrops glisten on clover leaves, a green growing three-in-one carpet.

Hedgerow flowers along the road to Great Bourton.

Hedgerow flowers along the road to Great Bourton.

#30dayswild

The work of doodling and colouring continues, through May, covering the season of Easter up until Trinity Sunday.

May 2015 doodles

May 2015 doodles

I think that it was when I was doing the Saturday afternoon trawl for sermon fodder that I first came across a blog that led me to the group known as RevGalBlogPals. Not yet a blogger myself, I knew that the crafting of words was very much what I wanted to weave into my own strand of ordained ministry. Here in the group I discovered words and a love of words, and behind the words, real women. Women who were like myself and were unlike myself, and all of us reaching out for spirit-filled words, to share as part of ministry in the big wide world, and in the places of home in which we are planted. I found poems and stories. I found shared wisdom and heart-felt words. Here I found encouragement, inspiration and joy in the discovery of my own voice – a continued work in progress.

I began my own blog during a sabbatical in 2011, and began to enjoy the online journalling and reflecting there. I used for my blog title the verb ‘to pootle’ as a word whose implicit slow pace of journeying, (perhaps with an accompanying hum or song) I was attracted to. Blogging regularly meant that I could join the circle of blogs and continue to dip into other creative and challenging thoughts, reflections and stories.

Imagine my surprise and delight, a few years down the line, to find my own words included in this beautifully gathered collection of essays. As I have read the book, I’ve been listening to such a wonderful variety of voices (some of which I have now heard in person, during the fabulous Big Event Edinburgh held last month!). These voices belong to women who are like me and are unlike me. We all happen to be clergy, and we are all seeking to listen to God’s voice. These voices are heard not only in the essays but in the short and sweet biographies that accompany them. I found RevGalBlogPals as I searched for sermon fodder and I found soul food. Read this book and you will be abundantly fed! http://revgalblogpals.org/theres-a-woman-in-the-pulpit/ #WomaninPulpit #RevGalBlogPals

In the UK you can buy the book from http://www.eden.co.uk/shop/theres-a-woman-in-the-pulpit-4322483.html

Abide

It is crucial that we be rooted in someone, if not somewhere. Pilgrim people on the move root in relationships. I am the vine, said Jesus… (Miriam Therese Winter)

A sermon for the fifth Sunday of Easter, year B: A couple of weeks’ ago I spent some time with a group of clergy women. The topic we explored together was pilgrimage. Our leader, Rev Ruth Everhart  http://www.rutheverhart.com/blog/ , shared her experience of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, and we drew out the themes of pilgrimage, of being a pilgrim. What does this mean? Today one of the themes from our Bible readings is about being rooted, about being branches, about abiding. Maybe these themes aren’t as different as they might appear at first hearing.

In the group I was part of, we wondered what made a pilgrim and found that it involved an attitude, a way of looking at life.

Being a pilgrim involves being open – to a nudge, to an adventure (maybe even to a vocation). Being a pilgrim means a remembering that we are body, mind and spirit and seeing life and love in this holy, whole way – using all our senses hearing, seeing, touching life in all its fullness.

Being a pilgrim means a particular way of paying attention. Ruth told us of visiting a variety of sacred, holy places – plenty of which were disputed in terms of – is this really the place where Jesus was born, died, rose,  miraculously shared bread…? She encountered many places where people came to touch the rock where maybe something sacred, holy happened. And a question came to her to ponder: – Is that a sacred rock, or are all rocks sacred? Being a pilgrim is another way to see the world – as a place shot through with God – a place where God abides.

Due to certain travel problems, I arrived late to the group. I was the last person to arrive. I had not met any of these women before, except through the internet and Facebook. And as I entered they gave me a round of applause – a warm welcome for a stranger. In a few short hours, in a few short days, spending time with these women, brought us into a different kind of relationship – a kind of a pilgrim bond or band. So that when it came for us to part, there was a real sadness.

We came from a range of countries and a range of different Christian traditions. Being a pilgrim means honestly facing difference, wrestling with difference and wondering what blessing that might mean for us as individuals and as members of communities.

Being a pilgrim is about stepping into the unknown – as life wherever we are is full of unknown twists and turns – and boldly going out.

We played with a number of words about the pace of being a pilgrim – the Scottish word to ‘daunder’, to meander, my own offering – to pootle, and to saunter (a word whose root may come from Sainte Terre – holy land, or may come from Sans Terre – to be homeless).

Being a pilgrim is about saying yes, as God says yes in love to us. It is a verb – to abide, to dwell, to remain, to continue

Ruth wrote this prayer to accompany her through her experience of pilgrimage and to continue to pray in her return home, to the place where she abides and is still a pilgrim:

I seek with all my heart

to be open to the leading of the Spirit on this pilgrimage.

May my heart and soul bear fruit.

May I be good soil for the work of the Spirit.

May my life change direction if need be.

May I be willing to bend like a willow in the wind of the Spirit.

Change me.

Bend me.

Break me, if need be.

Uproot me.

I am yours.

Amen

It is crucial that we be rooted in someone, if not somewhere. Pilgrim people on the move root in relationships. I am the vine, said Jesus… (Miriam Therese Winter)

Abide in my Love.

Huge thanks also to Rev Rachel Poolman, warden of St Cuthbert’s Centre on Lindisfarne https://www.lindisfarne.org.uk/saintcuthbertschurch/ for continuing to offer us generous hospitality and helping us continue to wander and wonder about being a pilgrim and the practice of abiding.

Lindisfarne views:

I haven’t been to the Holy Land, and I still don’t know if I will go, but I am glad that I decided to say ‘yes’ to attending the recent ‘Big Event Edinburgh’ (BEE) organised by the wonderful group RevGalBlogPals. The theme was pilgrimage and we enjoyed the thoughtful and gracious leadership of Rev Ruth Everhart, author of ‘Chasing the Divine in the Holy Land.’ http://www.amazon.co.uk/Chasing-Divine-Holy-Land-Everhart/dp/0802869076/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8

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Ruth gave us her own experience of this pilgrimage in the Holy Land in words and feelings, and gave us room to reflect on our own ways of being pilgrim, whether to a famous ‘sacred’ site or in the sacred moments of daily life.

After staying for a few days in the beautiful city of Edinburgh, some of the group were able to continue the reflection on the pilgrim way as we visited Lindisfarne. Here we walked in the steps of the fierce and fabulous northern saints of Aidan and Cuthbert. It was a wonderful and special time in good company.

Some Edinburgh views:

From Holy Week into the Easter season – daily doodles and colouring reflections.

April 2015 calendar of doodles.

April 2015 calendar of doodles.

I’m soon to go to Edinburgh to meet members of a blogging group I belong to – so thought I’d better do a blog!

From the beginning of Lent I’ve been experimenting with telling the gospel from heart as I preside at services. It’s been a surprising challenge. Surprising because I discovered a freedom in telling the text that I didn’t expect. A challenge to allow the story to speak for itself, to allow myself to be in the story without taking it over. And I am really enjoying it.  I enjoy telling with the rural congregations that I work with. I love the relaxed intimacy that can be part of these settings. In fact, on Easter Day when we happily had visitors in various places, I felt my telling was more stumbling, to people with whom I have a different kind of connection. Interesting!

Inspiring me along the way of telling has been the web site Story Divine http://www.storydivine.com/ There I have been listening to http://www.storydivine.com/twitter.com/caseyfitzgerald and others telling the story of God through scripture and through their own stories.

This Sunday, as Luke’s gospel followed on the story on the road to Emmaus, with another resurrection moment around a meal time, I shared a couple of meal time stories of my own. I asked questions about how we feed the story of Easter, putting flesh and bones on this story of love in action, for ourselves and for our communities.

To quote Jim Cotter in his re-forming of the Lord’s Prayer:

With the bread that we need for today, feed us.

 

Setting the table for breakfast at Iona Abbey.

Setting the table for breakfast at Iona Abbey.