Friday, May 13, 2016

Aslan is on the move

or, if you prefer, God is up to something.
This week, the Church of England has been invited to pray around those familiar words from the Lord's Prayer "Thy Kingdom Come...", and to focus our prayers on an outpouring of the Holy Spirit to transform the Church into a convincing sign of the Kingdom of God, an agent of God's transformation in lives and in communities.
All through the week I've been inviting people to simply pray "Thy Kingdom Come" and expect things to change...but I wasn't, if I honest, that alert to signs of those changes happening around me - until a conversation at a committee which isn't always the most obvious sign of God at work woke me up to some of the remarkable things that have been happening around the place.

At the weekend, the ruins of our second cathedral were full of happy faces, of out-pourings of local creativity at a one-night music festival, of students dressed to the nines enjoying their summer ball, of people of all ages savouring delicious street food and great music under cloudless skies. The whole thing shouted "Welcome" in so many different ways, and it was a delight to see people responding to that with warmth and enthusiasm - and to know that the God who shares in our joy was celebrating with us.

On both Tuesday and Wednesday I had completely unexpected opportunities to learn about some of the wounds that still linger in our communities, and maybe to offer small, tentative gestures towards restoration. Conversations happened that I could never have imagined being part of and, please God, seeds of hope and reassurance were planted.

Tuesday also included one of the most extra-ordinary experiences I've had in recent years. We welcomed several hundred Jains into the cathedral - as both tourists and pilgrims. There had been alot of correspondence with our splendid Dean's Verger before the big day - and an agreement that I would lead a time of meditation, ushered in by a chant.... This really alarmed me! Several hundred unknown Indians chanting in the nave  (even though I had enthusiastically agreed with the suggestion that we use "Maranatha" as our chant), had, I felt, the potential to disturb and confuse any casual visitor...
I had, of course, reckoned without the God who was so much part of the entire event.From the moment that our guests arrived they made it very clear that the cathedral was holy ground. We exchanged Namastes as they poured in...slightly late of course (though this had more to do with traffic around the city than that wonderful Indian maxim "In the west you have clocks. In India we have time")...filling the nave with the vibrant colours that delighted me whenever I led worship in India. When their visiting guru had arrived, I welcomed them, told them a little of the cathedral's story, and introduced the chant and meditation. I was still worried that we would struggle with the twenty minutes planned for this, but from the moment that I prayed it was very obvious that God was present in large, large letters. The opening prayer had been suggested by the Jains' co-ordinator - which was remarkable in itself. 
'Heavenly Father, open our hearts to the silent presence of the spirit of your Son. Lead us into that mysterious silence where your love is revealed to all who call, 'Maranatha...Come, Lord Jesus.'
They way that they responded was extra-ordinary.
As we chanted those four syllables, softly, til the word became part of the rhythm of breath and the blood coursing around our bodies, til the whole Cathedral seemed to be carrying that longing "Come, Lord Jesus", there was no doubt at all that every single one of us from the youngest child to the most venerable great-grand-parent, knew that we were in God's presence.
We moved into a silence that was nothing like long enough - and later, so many of our visitors took time to find me and tell me of the depth of their experience. Though officially Jains have no belief in any god, they were very clear that they had been in the presence of the divine, and that we had stood on holy ground together.
Later they were to pray the whole Litany of Reconciliation with my colleague in the ruins - the grace of God poured out and enabling us to live into the heart of our reconciliation ministry, which seeks to heal the wounds of history, learn to live with difference and celebrate diversity and to build a culture of peace.

And may I point out - it's only Friday! Sunday's a-coming, when we welcome the Holy Spirit poured out at Pentecost and active in transforming the world.

No comments: