Sunday, 30 October 2011

Sermon for All Saints

All Saints

The Beatitudes

God is in the business of making something beautiful of us if we will but let Him, and to that end, like a pearl being cultured we all need and should be very grateful for the bits of grit God sends our way.

Jilly was one such bit of grit for me and over several years of parish ministry God used her to work on me. Whenever she came my way, I knew I was in for it. There was something in her bearing, the way she pulled herself up and thrust her shoulders forward, like a bull ready to charge that said “You’re in for it, . . . Again”

On the occasion I have in mind, it concerned a play we were putting on at church. Actually it wasn’t a play, it was a dramatic monologue about Joseph, wonderfully portrayed as he mused on his lot as, well as a bit player in the drama of Salvation. St Joseph and his apparent marginality to the Story of Salvation, gives us much to think about, but another time – for there wasn’t time. Jilly was heading to me like an express train and that meant Trouble. “Have you seen this poster Vicar?!!” She never that I remember referred to me by name. If she was in a good mood it was “My Dear”, if she wasn’t it was Vicar – Have you seen this poster “the Lot of Joseph – a Bloke’s rough deal” – Fancy, calling St Joseph a bloke!! Is there no deference left in this society of ours? I shall most definitely not be going! And off she stormed, probably to tell everyone else that they shouldn’t go either and that calling a St a Bloke, was The Last Straw!!

Jilly, like many others I guess, liked her Saints to be somewhat above the common herd – those whom we can look up to, as if gazing adoringly from afar, someone who will do this whole Christian thing for us so that we who are less worthy may by their efforts sneak in at the last. As if there were two types of Christian, the Saints and then the rest of us, ‘blokes and lasses’ as we said in the Northern English Idiom, as it were muddling along – but you mustn’t confuse the two. Saints had the best seats booked at the heavenly banquet and hopefully we might sneak in on their coat tails. If you like, Saints and common or garden Sinners.

But . . . I think that in some small way she might have a point in her complaint. The word Bloke in Jilly’s ears spoke of disrespect of trying to pull St Joseph Down to Earth – to make him one of the common crowd – like us. And we do like to do this don’t we – to bring people down to Earth. I mean , think of the way we treat Celebrities in our culture, in newspapers and on the television – it seems we like nothing better than to point to imperfections, to knock people of there perch, and we do the same in the church.

If you don’t think so then let me ask you what comes to mind if I say St Peter? My guess is that unlike many of our forebears in faith, our dominant images of Peter are actually pretty negative. I myself have said that I give thanks for Peter, because he is always getting it wrong. Peter is rash, arrogant, and in the end denies Christ – and that is the way we like him, because it affirms us in all our rashness, arrogance and denial. It enables us to trot out the old story ‘we’re all sinners’ Yet, that is to ignore half of Peter’s story, it is to ignore the transforming effect of the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus upon Peter and his life.  We prefer Peter the Christ denier to Peter the bold preacher and martyr.

The Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus changes Everything, it transforms Peter and it is intended so to Transform us. A few weeks ago I invited you to look in the mirror and see there a Baptised person. To be Baptised is to be immersed in the Death, Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus – and the whole of the New Testament is a call to live in the light of that, to live in the New Reality that Christ has Brought into being.

It is a commonplace that ‘we are all sinners’ – yet that is not what the Scriptures call Christians, not what those who have been immersed in the Death Resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. No. Universally in the New Testament, these people are called Saints. Paul addresses many of his letters ‘To the Saints’ in such and such a place. When he writes to Rome and Corinth he says ‘to those who are called to be saints – Nowhere in Scripture are Christians referred to as Sinners, rather they are referred to as what they are Saints, if Saints in the making, if still being changed from one degree of glory to another, the focus is the Glory and Not the Shame.
            The old Sinner mould is discarded at Baptism and a new shape of life is given to grow up into – and our pulling the Saints Down is I think a Symptom of our refusal to undertake the demanding work of Growing up into the Saints we have been made by our Baptism into the Death, resurrection and Ascension of Jesus. It is a refusal of the gift of Life – once more as back in the garden – hiding from God. Trying to undo his work – you see We like to pull our Saints down, but God is in the business of lifting Sinners up.

I guess for many of us – that work of allowing ourselves to be made into Saints has stalled. I know it often can do so in my life. The Jilly’s of this world, those ‘who are sent to try us’ as those of old wisely put it, are not understood as God’s gift to us. Our first response to them is not ‘How is God using this to create something beautiful in me?’ but often ‘why doesn’t God get them out of my way??’

And in pondering that we may perhaps come to see that in truth there is no way but the way of Love as Jo began to reveal to us last week – but in particular, Love of God and this is exemplified for us in Jesus. His Death, resurrection and Ascension, open the way, and He is the Way. Perfectly expressed in the Beatitudes – these express what it means to keep the first commandment – and they express the Life of Christ.

Blessed are the poor in Spirit – those whose only hope is God
Blessed are those who mourn – whose only true comfort is God
Blessed are the meek – who allow themselves to be led by God
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst – for the Life of God
Blessed are the merciful – who are revealing the Life of God
Blessed are the Pure in heart – who only have eyes for God
Blessed are the peacemakers – who are involved in the work of God

As we look out upon the world – we see so much that is wrong and we fail to see so much more. Wars, rumours of wars, economic collapse, environmental degradation on a level that suggests that the planet may soon wish to spew out those who were sent to till and keep it. We may well look out at all of that and say – how on earth can being made into Saints help any of that?? What this world really needs is millions of . . . Saints. In other words it needs people who are wholly given over to God – Living Sacrifices which is the meaning of our baptism. Our immersion in His Life.
What this world needs is the Life of God – by baptism You and I are made part of the church, the Body of Christ in the world – we are called to be Saints and to live this New life we have been given in Christ, and thus to be God's transforming Life in the World.

The Beatitudes express the Life of Christ, they express The Way we are to go. They express this total devotion to God, or as we have it – they express what it means to Love God with all our heart soul, mind and strength.
            When we think of the Great Commandment – we tend to focus on the second, not the first – If I say Love to you, you will almost certainly think about how do I Love my neighbour as myself rather than How do I love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength? Yet we struggle to answer the question ‘How do we love our neighbour as ourselves’, perhaps because we have not begun to try to answer the first question ‘How do I love the Lord my God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength?’. It is only when we begin the work of Loving God with all we have and all we are – learning and living the beatitudes and trusting his work in us  - that we begin to learn what it is to Love our neighbours

My sister Jilly, for by baptism that is what she is, had a point. Saints are distinctive, they stick out, they are not the same, they have stepped out of the common herd. As Jesus sits down to preach he sees the crowds, His disciples Came to him, they began the walk to being Saints. The disciples step out of the crowd. In a culture where True distinctiveness that goes beyond narcissistic ‘Self Expression’ is Very Rare, this is a Hard Call, it is easier to try and drag the disciples back into the crowd than to follow them – it is easier to look at the Saints and say, come back down to earth to be Sinners with us, than to hear them say ‘No. You too have been raised with Christ – come to be Saints with us!’

Our brothers and sister in Christ are God’s gift to us in this Way of Christ - for they are God’s grit to our pearl, as we are to theirs. Seeing them as gift transforms everything, and I am glad to say that Jilly and I parted on better terms than we’d met as we’d both been grit to one another as God did his work on each of us.

Saying ‘I am a piece of Grit’ as we look at our brothers and sisters and at ourselves in the mirror is not a good idea. Perhaps if we saw them as God sees them – that when he looks on us He sees Christ. That they are in Christ, Saints – all Saints our eyes might be opened to that which we are also in God’s eyes, ‘they are Saints and I too am called to be a Saint’ – In Loving God with all we have and all we are – our eyes are fixed on Him – all we see is Him, when we look at others and when we look at ourselves. All Saints, for the Salvation of the World and for the Greater Glory of God.


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Who are you . . . ?

Although I love photography, I must admit a certain hesitation when photographing people. I have more than a degree of sympathy for those from less technological cultures, who sense that to take a photograph is to steal a soul. Thus I rarely photograph anyone except people I have come to know well, mainly family members. I think of the great portrait photographers and their work and always it reveals something that goes beyond the casual snapshot. They have spent time with their subject and the photograph reveals something of their Essence, their soul captured.

This morning, I noticed some Silvereyes enjoying the fruit on a bird table in the garden. These small and delightfully marked birds are native to New Zealand and new to me, and the light being good I rushed to get my camera and fit the telephoto lens, but first the presence of the cat and then my own lack of composure scared them off and I was left to wait.

I learnt a little about photography whilst waiting, taking time to test a variety of aperture settings  - but then more importantly being present and attentive. Usually when I am out with my camera, there is a certain anxiety about getting a good shot, especially when wildlife is concerned, and frustration when it doesn't come off. But I'd been dwelling on Presence and Contemplation recently and it came to me that photography at its best was an act of Contemplation. Of being Present to the subject of your attention. Not making a claim upon them and so tying myself to them, just Being there.

I've learnt over the years not to get fretful when God doesn't show up at the hour I've ever so courteously carved out for Him. That fretting belies a certain impatience. But waiting for the birds is very much like waiting for God in prayer, they weren't in any hurry to show themselves, and it came to me that the real fruit of patience is not the reward of a good shot, but the stillness of heart wherein time becomes of no importance, it almost disappears. As one quietens oneself to Wait, time stops. and you just are Present. And at some juncture the Silvereyes reappeared.

Of course they didn't have to, they are free, and in that stillness I found I was too.

Friday, 21 October 2011


Having recently moved to New Zealand from England, thoughts of Home and Faith form much of the fabric of my reflections on life at this time. For better or worse - and as often the gleam of the 'better' blinds us to the 'Worse' -  we live in a world where those of fairly modest means can move freely around a country, if not indeed around the globe.
           I know this mobility well. My father, an accomplished yet underrated Sales Director, worked for several companies as I was growing up. Thus moves around England and Scotland were a constant feature of life. Once I left what I had once more come to call ‘home’, the pattern continued and  I have lived in a further eleven different places. From my birth and early baptism, Life has been nomadic, my faith has had to travel with me.

In the Old Traditions there are two guiding and competing stories about faith and moving around, which might speak to such experiences. Benedict in his Rule for Monastic life added an extra vow to the classic three of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience – that of Stability. For he was aware of the spiritually restless, ‘Gyrovagues’ he called them. 
                    We still know this type in the church, those who  move restlessly around to find 'The Right Church' - passing ships without an anchorhold. Or then again, there are those looking for 'Signs and Wonders' (about whom Jesus was more than a little curt). I belong to a neo-monastic community whose Mother House has, because of powerful manifestations of the Spirit, become a bit of a honey pot for such gyrovagues. Benedict said - if you come here you stay - if you are really searching then you  need to put down roots to make The Essential Discovery . . . Seek and You Will Find. Stay Put and Look! (Perhaps those of us who are ordained need  to be similarly tough with newcomers??)
             Then the were the Peregrinati, the Wanderers – different from the Gyrovagues – they moved as they were led and called by God’s Spirit – Abram being our example, par excellence, but many many throughout the history of the church, like Paul, like Philip, like the Celtic Saints and many nameless souls - moving more silently through the landscape of the Kingdom's Years.

Both moving - both to the casual observer the same - but a World apart. The difference? The Gyrovagues didn’t realize that He was not to be found Out There, but Within.

The Kingdom of God is, by the Resurrection of Christ Now but Not yet – it is Here, but Hidden. 
The restless need to stay put, be still long enough to make The Discovery, ‘Christ in You, the hope of Glory’ as St Paul says. The Israelites spent 40 years in the desert, trying to learn this one Essential lesson, that in their wanderings, God was present among them. Learning to become Peregrinati, rather than those Gyrovagues who were all too ready to rush back to Egypt – all too ready to journey away from their hearts.

Apart from the two daughters I left behind, there is but one Gift I wish I could have brought with me. Back in England, my Diocese had a small ‘Hidden Treasure’ of a retreat house tucked up a small arm of a remote Yorkshire Dale, Parceval Hall. As is the way with retreat houses, often people need a yet more solitary space, so hidden in the garden was a Poustinia, a bare cell with chair, icon and cross, a type of Desert room. A wilderness space for the encounter with God. Well, needless to say the shipping costs were a wee bit high for exporting Parceval Hall, never mind the ire of the good folk of Appletreewick and beyond.

But the truth that I have to relearn day by day, is that I brought my Poustinia with me, I don’t have to go looking. I remarked to someone that I was slightly surprised and a little disturbed to discover how ‘at home’ I felt here even on day one. He Wisely remarked, ‘well of course, God is here’.

Benedict's vow is for those who are looking for a home here. The restless who do not realise that Rest, the Wayside Inn is closer to them than they are to themselves, absent from their hearts as they are. We need such stability in order to make that discovery. In a sense it is the discovery we should make when we are young, that there is a place called Home, that in the love of parents and friends it is safe and secure - Jesus himself spent 30 years in Nazareth . . . - but from that place of safety we are then free to set out, to fly as it were, for in that earthly home we get a foretaste of our True Home.

'Christian' can be understood as 'Spirit Annointed'. The Spirit blows where it will and so as Christians we may often find that our lives become Peregrinations. I think of many friends who in response to the call, like Abram 'Go from their country and kindred and father’s house', for we Are Strangers and pilgrims, citizens of another city – on our way Home. But as we do we carry a foretaste of Home with us and allow it to leak out, that others may cease from their restless wandering and come Home too.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Learning to fly is the easy part . . .

Nos fecisti ad te et inquietum est cor nostrum donec requiescat in te
[Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee 
- Augustine of Hippo]

Just recently, musing upon changes in life and ministry as I am at present, I 'saw' a picture which has stuck with me. It was based on a memory from many years ago, when I was but a youth - and on reflection a most disturbing and yet instructive one. 

At the age of 16 an opportunity fell into my lap that, unlike many others that came my way, I grasped with both hands.      I was offered the chance to learn to pilot a light aircraft. 
              And so a whole year before it would be legal for me to drive a motor car on the public road I found myself alone at the controls of a Cessna 152 - somewhat dramatically named 'The Aerobat', license G-GRBP - high above the East Midlands of England. 
            And what an exhilarating experience it was! There was a  freedom to powered flight that was quite wonderful, unhindered motion through three dimensions, unconstrained by roads and, by the wonders of the Bernoulli effect, a moderately powerful engine provided at least the illusion of freedom from gravity.

However, the memory in question was of a day when the exhilaration gave way to a profound discomfort to put it mildly -  a day when the freedom was exposed as illusory. 
                I had already discovered that flying was slightly less straighforward than my imagination had told me it was.  In many respects there was nothing to it, such aircraft are very stable in the air and even without the aid of the propeller could glide, but I had seriously struggled with the most elementary yet highly necessary skills, that of landing :) On my course, 10 hours of instruction was the cut off point for 'going solo', if you couldn't land safely before that point the course ended. After all if you couldn't satisfactorily land the plane, it wasn't a good idea to take off on your own! I think I was finally let off the leash after 9 hrs and 45 minutes . . .

And so it was about a week later I found myself spending a carefree hour practising a basic manouvre, the Steep Turn.  Paying close attention to airspeed and applying the necessary extra throttle, keeping the aircraft nose raised by applying opposite rudder I was utterly absorbed in the business of flying. Yet whilst putting my nascent knowledge to use and growing steadily in confidence, beginning to think I really could master the skies,  I had forgotten to pay attention to one important thing. 
            Having spent half an hour practising these turns I levelled out the aircraft and glanced at my map to navigate home, only to discover that the land underneath me bore no relation to said map. I was lost.

I have on rare occasions got lost in a car. It is little more than a minor irritation and certainly no reason to invest in SatNav. I pull over and ask someone where I am. In a light aircraft you can't pull over, you can't even stop . . .

Of course rather than seek help in my fear of being exposed for the fool I'd been, I guessed :) Seeing a large town beneath me I assumed I had inadvertently drifted off course in a Southerly direction, so duly headed North. Wrong town. I had as you may have guessed actually drifted North and so was headed even further away from my home aerodrome.

It was only about ten minutes later (air speed 90knots - you can do the math) that I realised I was in big trouble and called for help, or rather HELP!!! Fortunately my cry of distress was picked up by a USAAF base into whose controlled airspace I had drifted. Thus, apart from the knowledge that there were two F111 tactical strike aircraft headed vauguely in my direction at a speed that meant I could have been reduced to a million and one pieces before they ever saw me, my return to the safety of Leicester East airfield was  uneventful - I guess I must have landed ok too :)

Well this picture of flying in a kind of freedom above a map with which I had lost all connection came to me as I considered both my own spiritual walk and perhaps that of many others. In our restless quest for Something, we pay little attention to the Ground of Our Being - the source of all of our Life.

We are Human, of the earth - Adam - Mud men and women - and if God had meant us to fly he'd have given us wings - but Icarus like we still try and develop our own freedom, but one which is illusory. One way or another we will come back to earth. It all depends on whether we realise we are lost and cry out for help or just wait for the petrol to run out, and should the latter be the case, whether we have developed any facility for landing, for connecting with our true Home - our Life in God.

It will come as no surprise to anyone to discover that I have a somewhat butterfly mind - ceaselessly, restlessly (?) playing with ideas and thoughts and it occurred to me that that picture of flying above unfamiliar territory might be a picture of my own life and perhaps that of others. To paraphrase one old mentor, I think better than I live.

St Augustine spoke of the restless heart and how we needed to come home, the plane needed to land on the solid earth of Existence that is our Life in God. A Life not lived in a rarified but disconnected thought life, 2000 feet above reality, but rather is immersed in it. As one dear friend constantly reminds me, a Life that is found in life's keepings, in a thousand and one human encounters and simple acts of service. That somewhat paradoxically, it is within these constraints of the everyday that our true freedom is found. And here we find Him. Whilst undoubtedly there are some who are Called to the Academy or the Monastery, most of us are not ( and what is it to us, should He so call them? Jn 21:22) - but the message of one who was so called I think teaches us the how of this Ordinary life - Brother Lawrence who taught about the Practise of the Presence of God - of Lives turned to Him - heaven bound whilst bound to Earth.

The attentive heart can be alert to him in each moment of the Ordinary, found in Him and not lost in our illusions. 

Following my qualification as a pilot I never flew again - it was an enjoyable and rich distraction - yet I am still struggling with those most important of skills, paying attention to the Ground and learning to land, to come home and live there.

Saturday, 8 October 2011

The Heart has but one door

Recently I took an assembly at my daughters' high school. (One of the crosses the children of priests have to bear is 'Dad' turning up to speak to all their peers, but I think I may have got away with it without causing major embarrassment). My theme was Fullness of Life and I used the utterly wonderful U2 song "Breathe" as an intro - after all, any school assembly Must provide 'Improving' music as part of the diet :-).

Whilst freestyling with ideas as is my wont, I remembered the movie Flat World in which three dimensional objects move through and interact with a two dimensional world (I don't remember if there ever was such a movie, but I remember a cartoon of that name?? - Well I had had a LOT of coffee to drink that morning!). Anyway I used this as an illustration of how the Life of the Spirit of Christ gives such a richness to life that it takes on an utterly new and beguiling dimension - that although invisible, this Life had a profound impact both upon the one who bears it, and upon the world through which he or she passes.[Actually, I didn't say much of that and have just made it up - freestyling again - why do all the best ideas come either in the dead of night when no-one's listening, or after everyone's gone home??]

U2  capture something of this Life in their music - as a good friend once said to me after I'd recommended their music, 'They really get it!' - and the song in question is crammed full of allusions to the Life we may know in Christ and the two dimensional life we experience without Him. Interestingly the song opens with an allusion to James' Joyce Ulysses, possibly the most detailed description of an Ordinary day to be found in literature - with some 'snake oil' salesman coming to the door at 9.05 on 16th June to offer something which will help "if I want to stay alive a little longer",  but goes on to the  chorus, where Bono belts out "there's nothing you have that I need, I can Breathe." Full of the Spirit, Full of Life - he doesn't need things to put death off, 'staying alive a little longer', but rather has already in Christ discovered the LIFE that is eternal, the fulness of life of which Jesus speaks in John 10. [It is perhaps as Brian Eno suggests,  the best song the band have ever produced and with this theme ringing through it, it is little suprise]

As I left the school after the assembly I pondered, "what if one of my somewhat captive audience had been caught by this idea of this Life, rather than the rather distracting thought that at the end of the assembly the holidays would begin - and wanted to know, How might I know this life, and How might I live it? What might I have said??"

Of course the answer to the first is simple, the way to receive the life is to receive the one who is Life, the Gloriously Alive One - 'everyone who lives and believes in me will never die'. So the first step is belief in Him, but the second - live in Him . . . what of that?

Recently a good friend who patiently reads and listens to many of my witterings, suggested I should try and write more from my heart and it came to me that this was the answer - live from the heart. The only problem with that, being precisely the problem of the heart - for we are taught in our Christian tradition not to trust out hearts, and this leaves us in a bind - believing, but fearing to live the Life poured out for us and through us to the world. (Perhaps we are all too often the last servant in the parable of the talents??) So what to do??

A few years ago I passed through a bit of a wilderness time, a time when my own internal inconsistencies so reared their heads as to make the whole business of life too much for a while. Difficult though it was, it opened the door for me and gave me time, time to listen and to learn, and from that grew an awareness that the only way the heart could be healed was to be open to the Healer. As one of my brothers kindly pointed out, Having got myself into the mess , I was hardly in a position to get myself out!! And it came to me then that there was truly nothing new under the sun - it was all there in that first Word or Command - Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength - that is Live Open heartedly before God in every moment of Life - He will Heal your heart. 'Practising the Presence of God' as one wise old Saint put it - being continually present to Him who is eternally Present to us

But it also came to me that this also was the key to living the Life of Love of neighbour, for it seems that the heart has but one door - as John reminds us 'how can we say we live God whom we do not see if we do not live our brother whom we do?'.  Jesus ties the two commands together Love God AND Love your neighbour - and they are inseparable, for to truly Love God, to be directed towards Him, to be Open to his Life, the door to our hearts are therefore Open and not closed and thus his Life can flow into the world. In other words if His Love is not flowing out into his world it is because our hearts are closed to Him who is Life.

This requires Practise - we are trained in infinite distractions from the Life of God - a million and one things compete for our attention, the 'three things I need you to know' seeking to seize our hearts and bar The Door, but 'these days are better than that'. The treasure of Life is More than worth the effort of living open heartedly of living in each moment - present to Him and thus to the world,  and U2 get this, too 
'Ev'ry day I, die again and again and'm reborn,
Ev'ry day I gotta find the courage to walk out into the street
with arms out, gotta Love you can't defeat, neither down nor out . . .'

Friday, 7 October 2011

Why I am not a Pacifist

"If we could stand back from our prayers . . .
we would see how easily we pray for improved circumstances, 
but how difficult we find it to pray for enlarged character"
 Robert Warren

Like the vast majority of right thinking people, I have never been a fan of war - its horrors need no rehearsing, forming as they do nowadays part of the news bulletins streamed into the cocoon of our homes more often than not. What is more I have long thought that Jesus' teaching, his life and most particularly his death defeating death - powerfully suggest that to refuse to take arms against another human being is indeed the Christian Way.

Yet, I declare Here and Now that I am not a Pacifist. And you may ask, given what I have already said why not? Is it not an act of disobedience not to take this position given what I have said? Well, No - I do not think that it is an act of disobedience.

But let us muse on that phrase a moment or two longer, 'an act of disobedience not to take this position'.

I could argue that I am mentally confused about it - (as indeed I could about many things :-) )
For example, I have long been an admirer of the thought of the predominant Christian ethical voice of the last two decades, Stanley Hauerwas who not only argues most presuasively for Pacifism as the only authenitc Christian position in this regard, but also dismantles the claims of those who say they are pacifists, most noticeably John  Howard Yoder. [See Hauerwas: - Performing the Faith - Bonhoeffer and the practice of non-violence - (SPCK, London. 2004) Ch 7]

There again I listen to another mentor, Dr Victor Shepherd, a most thoughtful Christian teacher and pastor. I listen to his analysis of Pacifism and as he says, he could argue for it, indeed he wants so to so, but for the images that run over and over again in his head of Jewish children being loaded into cattle trucks bound for Auschwitz.

One writer with compelling arguments for, and one teacher with heart searing reasons finally not to take this  position, against.

So, you might argue that I am not a Pacifist because I cannot make up my mind - but that it seems is never finally the real reason why we truly adopt 'A position'. [It is interesting to note in this regard that CS Lewis in Screwtape Letters suggests that 'Strongly Held Views' can be wonderful diversions from the life of faith . . .]

No, I am not a pacifist for two related reasons - firstly I have never, and as I am now in my 50th year of life in all likelihood will never, be required by whatever country of which I am a citizen to bear arms. So to declare myself when others may well be so required to do seems to me to be morally questionable. What is more I have never yet and by the grace of God never shall live somewhere where hearth and home come under such attack that I am faced with the choice to act or not, to kill in the defense of others.

Thus it seems that to declare myself either one way or the other is purely an act of . . .?? that is it - it is no act at all

So secondly I am not because to truly be a Pacifist has nothing to do with my convictions - in the end I can only be a man of peace if my heart is one where peace rules. Put another way, I can only truly be a Pacifist if that fruit of the Spirit, Peace rules in my heart so that my Actions are those of a man who embodies this fruit of the Spirit in his very being.

The title of this blog you may  have noticed was filched from that of a famous pamphlet of the early part of the last century by the philosopher Bertrand Russell - 'Why I am not a Christian', and it seems to me that I might similarly have entitled this blog. For the Christian life is in the end just that - the embodiment of the Life of Christ's Spirit - and that fruit has a long way to go to be full grown in me yet.

And there I might close and sit in my room and pray this fruit into existence, for how else will I become such a person, but that in my passivity He acts to bear fruit - yet I cannot sit content with that as a response. For it seems to me that it buys to easily into a private pietistic attitude that is widely held yet fails to produce those who in their lives reveal the light of Christ in such a way as to cause others to ask questions.
          But, you may ask, if sitting around in my room in the presence of The Presence (to quote one spiritual guide) is not enough  - is there anything I have given me that might help me to become what I am called in Him to be?

And the answer is an emphatic Yes - but it is a gift we largely ignore nowadays trained as we are in finding our own Way. It is the gift we receive in Baptism, incorporation into Christ's body, that group of people called in their common life to embody the fruit of the Spirit - yes indeed to Be Christ in the World. I may say more of this at another time, about how we are called to be disciplined communities that the Life of Christ might be revealed in us, that we bear much fruit. (We must not forget that Jesus addresses this Word Firstly to the Church as he speaks to the Disciples and that it is only secondarily that we might presume to hear it as individual members - to refuse this, to bypass the church in our hearing of the word is to remove ourselves from the One who speaks and is poisonously presumptuous)

I conclude with some words of Hauwerwas that I think are worth thinking upon with benefit in the case of the pacific fruit and adapted for the others
If we are as Christians to survive the violent societies that threaten to engulf us, we will do so just to the extent that we discover  . . . worthwhile activities through which we learn not just to be at peace, but that we love peace. . . Non-violence cannot be explained, it can only be shown by the attractiveness of the friendships that constitute our lives.
ibid. p 183