Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Holy Week Meditation - On the Margin (3)

Reflection for Holy Week
“On the Margins” (3)

Reflection for Holy Week
“On the Margins” (3)

Now the Lord is about to lay waste the earth and make it desolate,
   and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants. 
And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest;
   as with the slave, so with his master;
   as with the maid, so with her mistress;
as with the buyer, so with the seller;
   as with the lender, so with the borrower;
   as with the creditor, so with the debtor. 
The earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled;
   for the Lord has spoken this word.

The earth dries up and withers,
   the world languishes and withers;
   the heavens languish together with the earth. 
The earth lies polluted
   under its inhabitants;
for they have transgressed laws,
   violated the statutes,
   broken the everlasting covenant.

Therefore a curse devours the earth,
   and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt;
therefore the inhabitants of the earth dwindled,
   and few people are left. 
The wine dries up,
   the vine languishes,
   all the merry-hearted sigh. 
The mirth of the timbrels is stilled,
   the noise of the jubilant has ceased,
   the mirth of the lyre is stilled.

No longer do they drink wine with singing;
   strong drink is bitter to those who drink it. 
The city of chaos is broken down,
   every house is shut up so that no one can enter. 
There is an outcry in the streets for lack of wine;
   all joy has reached its eventide;
   the gladness of the earth is banished. 
Desolation is left in the city,
   the gates are battered into ruins. 

For thus it shall be on the earth
   and among the nations,
as when an olive tree is beaten,
as at the gleaning when the grape harvest is ended.
Isaiah 24:1-13

As we have made our way through Holy Week, we have been considering the Margins - the place of boundaries and where we have come to. As we considered Jesus entering into the Temple and then leaving we were reminded by the words ‘as it was already late’ that the darkness gathers - and so in the gathering darkness we await the words ‘Early, on the first day of the week’. Boundaries, Edges, Margins, times of great upheaval. And we have expressed this as a sort of turning inside out - of the reality of the Cave or the City which seems to have everything we need being revealed as a place which actually rejects and denies life.

We thought about this at a personal level - our own need of Conversion - our own need to be turned inside out, that God might be our Centre. And then yesterday, being reminded we never think of the Scope of Salvation in large enough terms, we thought of it in terms of the church - of a church on the margins - of how we find ourselves to be outside, thought of as irrelevant - do we try to be relevant and go back into the city - or do we take the risk of being found on the outside - on the rubbish heap, with our Crucified messiah? On the edge. In the place of Salvation.

But we still haven’t really begun to grasp the scope of this breathtaking Salvation. All of which we have so far spoken has been about our perception of where we are, the Centre or the Edge and how we mistake the two, the place of Life being to our observation a place of death (consummately in the Cross). Where are we? What is our Place? Fundamentally that is the issue - it always has been - what is our place as human beings. In the Beginning we were given a place - the crown of God’s creation, but forgot it was God’s Creation - we lost our place. We began to think of it as our home, and I guess that is perhaps why we are so comfortable on the inside, in the City, in the Cave - because we made it to suit ourselves - it became our servant, instead of we its tender and keeper. The Creation became ‘the Environment’ - our Environment. And now we stand on the edge, on the margin. Quite literally the Cave, the City is revealed to be the true rubbish heap.

The earth lies polluted
 under its inhabitants;

for they have transgressed laws,
violated the statutes,
broken the everlasting covenant.
What was the Everlasting Covenant? Well it was the oldest of all Biblical covenants - the covenant with Noah - where God promised, Never again would he cover the earth with the floodwaters. And now, it seems as icecaps melt and waters rise above the low lying pacific islands, it seems we are doing it ourselves.

In the beginning was a Garden with two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of knowledge.
What we do not realise is that the Tree of knowledge makes us Blind. So many of Jesus’ healings are of the blind. We think we see well enough - but we do not see at at all. Knoweldge, Facts. These reduce Everything to objects. We become Observers rather than Participants. We thought a little about this last night, when I suggested that perhaps we spoke to glibly of the church, as if we could step away from it and observe it and so declare ‘It is clearly in a bad state’ - but immediately we have begun to use the language of ‘It’ we reveal that we have stepped away from Life. We are out of Relationship. Our language has become Impersonal - we do now Know that of which we speak. We are reduced to knowing about it. We do not understand that We are the Church. The Church is an It. And so it is even more so with The Environment. We imagine It as It - A stage perhaps on which we play out life’s little days. We do not understand that In the beginning we were actually woven deep into the fabric of the Created order , that we Participate in it with our Very Being - that in a Real sense we are One with Creation as we are with the Church. We have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. We, being blind never realised for a moment that How we lived with regard to God would affect anyone but ourselves - it may affect the church, perhaps . . . but the Very fabric of Creation?? 

Having drunk deeply of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge we now Know enough to realise what we have done, or at least the damage we have caused but our perception that we have done this because we were Part of Creation is dim at best, for our knowing is impersonal. And there is the most Horrible irony in that this Knowledge is coming to fruition, just when it seems to be too late.

The Temple had always been a profound symbol of the Creation - and so at this very late hour one comes who enters the city and goes into the temple; and when he has looked around at everything, as it was already late, he leaves . . .’ It is Late - Very late - the darkness is gathering hard and fierce.

In the case of us as individuals - it is very hard for us to see that we dwell in a cave of our own making, so used we are to referencing everything to ourselves - with regard to the church of which we are at once part and also observers it is perhaps easier to see there is a problem, but difficult to know how to respond. But in terms of the Creation there can be little or no doubt, we stand on the edge - indeed we may well have crossed the boundary - which with its dark theme actually brings us to Easter

However we try, we Always underplay Easter -Nothing can convey the Wonder of the Resurrection - so accustomed to the darkness of the cave have we become that the brightness is itself like dark - blinding us. We talk of Easter in terms of the great feast of the churches year, but it is Breathtakingly beyond any description. Perhaps were we better to comprehend the darkness in which we all too readily live, we might better comprehend the Miracle of Easter and the scope of a Salvation which encompasses quite literally Everything. We may at a personal level see Easter as the transforming Hope of our Life -we may even hope that the Easter message will transform the church also - but This Sacrifice is for the Sin of the whole World. The first Christians understood the Sacrifice in these truly Cosmic terms, Behold, A New Heaven and  a New Earth.

We are left asking in the darkness - do we believe in Easter?
And if so, just how big is our Easter Vision and Hope?

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