Thursday, November 15, 2007


Running with angels' laughter - (John Hazelwood)

There is no condemnation for those who are united with Christ Jesus, because in Christ Jesus the life-giving law of the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death. I am convinced that there is nothing in death or life, in the realm of spirits or superhuman powers, in the world as it is or the world as it shall be, in the forces of the universe, in heights or depths -- nothing in all creation that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Speak to one another in psalms, hymns and songs; sing and make music in your hearts to the Lord; and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ give thanks every day for everything to our God and Father.

Don't worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God's peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus.

Praise the Lord, my soul! All my being, praise his holy name!

Praise the Lord, my soul, And do not forget how kind he is.

He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases.

(Romans 8:1, 38-39, NEB; Ephesians 5:18-20, NEB; Philippians 4:6-7, GNB; Psalm 103:1-3, GNB)

The thirteenth of October 1982 was the tenth anniversary of a plane crash in the Andes with forty-five people aboard. Seventeen died immediately. Twelve died in the following days. Seventy days after the crash, sixteen young men who survived were rescued. Twenty-nine-year-old Uruguayan Gustavo Zerbino said on the tenth anniversary: 'The mountains drastically changed our scale of values. I am in society and must be concerned about economic realities. But I try to emphasise the spiritual and human part of life. We lit fires with money in the Andes. Money may help attain goals, but it isn't a goal in itself.' Fernando Parrado, thirty-two, whose mother died in the crash and whose sister agonised for five days in his arms before dying said, 'I'm no preacher. I don't go around telling people to enjoy what they have while they have it, but that is what we learned.'

These two men are not speaking with the same breadth as Paul in his letters but there is a hint of angels' laughter in their approach to life. The shadows of the crash, the deaths, the cold still hang over them. But they are not defeated by the memories nor absorbed by what they now have. They are like Paul in this, that they know the reality of God, as if he were standing astride everything, bearing them up in his arms.

For my purposes I take it that the Caroline Divines are clergymen or bishops of the Church of England who lived, taught and suffered through the years of the reign of James I and Charles I up to 1650... Saints have a resiliency that runs with angels' laughter over the machinations of other men's greed, pride and polity. These saints, enshrined where they are in the dangerous minefields of Stuart and Puritan civil strife and Roman Catholic threat, hold hands with the saints of the fourteenth century in that they see the relationship of God with men shining through the natural world...

John Hazelwood, from the chapter, 'The Spirituality of the Caroline Divines' in Anglican Spirituality.

Hurrah for those who never invented anything;
Hurrah for those who never explored anything;
Hurrah for those who never conquered anything;
But who, in awe, gave themselves up to the essence of things,
Ignorant of the shell, but seized by the rhythm of things
Not intent on conquest, but playing the part of the world.

by the Caribbean poet Aime Ceasaire

From the standpoint of the Christian faith, the potential of the world for beauty and squalor, for wonder and terror, for many shades and varieties of meaning, is an authentic potential -- as authentic as the potential of radio waves to become sounds. Beauty and squalor and other varieties of meaning are not merely projected upon the world by man's imagination; for the Creator himself has given to the world not only power of being but also power of meaning, not only existence but meaningful existence. So man, in perceiving meaning in the world, perceives what is really there. He sees -- no doubt in a distorted or limited way -- what God sees: at least he sees the dimension -- the dimension of meaning -which God sees. He becomes a point at which God's perception of the world is, as it were, caught in a tiny mirror and projected back to God; so that, if a flight of imagination may be permitted, God sees before him not only the world which he has made in all its depth of meaning but also myriads of points at which something of that depth of meaning is received by human consciousness and reflected back to him. God creates a world which includes among its infinite variety of wonders this culminating wonder -- that there are points within it at which, in the consciousness of men, its wonders are received and recognised.

W.H. Vanstone, The Stature of Waiting

Some were bearded but no one in that company struck me as being of any particular age. One gets glimpses, even in our country, of that which is ageless -- heavy thought in the face of an infant, and frolic childhood in that of a very old man.

C.S. Lewis, in a description of heaven in The Great Divorce

The spring blew trumpets of colour,
Her green sang in my brain,
I heard a blind man groping
tap-tap with his cane.
I pitied him his blindness
but can I say I see?
Perhaps there walks close by a
spirit that pities me.
A spirit that sees me tapping the
five-sensed cane of time;
Amid such unguess'd glories
that I am worse than blind!

Harry Kemp, 'Blind' in Great Poems of the English Language

Let then our first act every morning be to make the following resolve for the day: 'I shall not fear anyone on earth. I shall fear only God. I shall not bear ill-will towards anyone. I shall not submit to injustice from anyone. I shall conquer untruth by truth and in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.' Mahatma Gandhi

At the beginning of the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, we set up a voluntary car pool to get the people to and from their jobs. For eleven months our car pool functioned extraordinarily well. Then Mayor Gayle introduced a resolution instructing the city's legal department to file such proceedings as it might deem proper to stop the operation of the car pool or any transportation system growing out of the bus boycott. A hearing was set for Tuesday, November 13, 1956.

At our regular weekly mass meeting, scheduled the night before the hearing, I had the responsibility of warning the people that the car pool would probably be enjoined...

When the evening came, I mustered sufficient courage to tell them the truth. I tried, however, to conclude on a note of hope. 'We have moved all of these months,' I said, 'in the daring faith that God is with us in our struggle. The many experiences of days gone by have vindicated that faith in a marvellous way. Tonight we must believe that a way will be made out of no way...'

[Next day] in anxiety and hope, I read these words in the court release: 'The United States Supreme Court today unanimously ruled bus segregation unconstitutional in Montgomery, Alabama.' My heart throbbed with an inexpressible joy. The darkest hour of our struggle had become the first hour of victory. Someone shouted from the back of the courtroom: 'God Almighty has spoken from Washington!'

Martin Luther King, in a sermon 'A Knock at Midnight'

The Prayer of the Goldfish

O God, forever I turn in this hard crystal,
so transparent, yet I can find no way out.
Lord, deliver me from the cramp of this water
and these terrifying things I see through it.
Put me back in the play of your torrents, in your limpid springs.
Let me no longer be a little goldfish
in its prison of glass, but a living spark
in the gentleness of your reeds. Amen.

Carmen Bernos de Gasztold, Prayers of the Ark

Father, I thank you that Jesus never lost his bright hopefulness even when everything was at its darkest. I remember how he held to you when the devil tempted him in the wilderness, how he cared for children when the disciples impatiently dismissed them, and how he endured the cross because of the joy that was set before him.

Father, help me to live joyfully when today's Pharisaic attitudes threaten to make me doubt your love for all things great and small. Show me how to run with angels' laughter over all arrogance, bigotry, meanness and manipulation -- in myself and in others.

A Benediction

The Lord be within you to strengthen you; over and around you to ward off your spiritual foes on every side; under you to hold you up in your goings; behind you to guard you from the assaults of the past; before you to lead you on. Amen.
Still Waters, Deep Waters ed. By Rowland Croucher pp. 135-139

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