broken open to wonder

Bread and wine: ordinary objects grown from seed and ground; plucked from tall vines and pressed into bottles and jars. Yet when, by the breaking of himself, Jesus took, blessed, broke, and gave that bread and wine they became extraordinary. Objects of wonder and communion so abundant that they are offered to all.

Last Thursday night, at the delightful Clare College Theologians’ dinner, I heard Rowan Williams speak. He spoke of his theological influences and interests – of love, death, and sacrament, and of the poets and thinkers who have inspired his faith. Dylan Thomas’ poem ‘This bread I break’ was among those mentioned: Rowan explained that through Thomas’ words he came to realise that everything is sacrament, a gift through which, moment by moment, we can discover communion with God.

This whole world and our experience of it – given and broken open to reveal wonder and communion.

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I think of how true this is as I wander through the rainy and nearly deserted Botanical Gardens. I pause to stare at the intense purple of a lone plant among the spring green; I smooth my hand along the striped, bronze branches of a Tibetan cherry tree; my nose catches the falling drops of rain from clusters of pink blossom. I even press my ear to (what I think is) a silver birch, because I’ve heard that when you do that you can hear the sap moving through the trunk. I think I just caught the sound – someone once said that it sounds like a Victorian plumbing system running through an old vicarage. What a wonder-full image!

All of these pauses allow moments and materiality to break open and reveal wonder and communion. Wonder at the wild world we live in; communion with the Wilder One who made it.

And this is not just true of moments with Tibetan cherry trees and silver birches. When broken open, moments with people shine with the glory of that same wonder and communion. I catch the light in your eyes and see the Father who made you and loves you and brings you joy.

We can choose to live this way, looking for the wonder in moments broken open. We can choose to live given; we can choose to live with ourselves broken open so that, through us, others may see wonder and communion too. We can choose to live given and serving and loving.

And this is what I choose to grow in this term, I pray. To live given, sacramentally, incarnationally. Because that’s how Jesus lives, and that’s how God’s light breaks into darkness – breaks into the ordinary to reveal the wonder and communion of his extraordinary love.

I’ll finish with the words of a friend singing worship next to me on Saturday morning. One of her phrases stuck with me: ‘you shatter the darkness’. God shatters, breaks open, and breaks into darkness, making every place extraordinary. You shatter the darkness – and you invite us to live given so that we can illuminate the ordinary with you.

Soundtrack: a stunning, new-ish song that Spotify introduced me to this morning, Steffany Gretzinger’s ‘Blackout’.

 

 

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cost breaks out into abundance

Seeing people be baptised tends to make me cry, these days.

An overwhelming, deeply delightful joy makes itself so unexpectedly present in me that my eyes fill with tears – tears that I don’t anticipate, but tears that I love. It’s like a light bearing down on me: ever surprising, ever good, and inexpressible in words. Captured only in joy; understood only by the Father’s heart.

It’s similar to the growing sense of peace I feel whenever I am at Eucharist. Seeing the bread broken and the wine poured out; hearing the words of the liturgy; receiving the grace to know that Christ’s body was broken and his blood poured out – for us all.

The grace to know that through Jesus’ breaking comes peace, shalom-wholeness, light shining through darkness.

A few weeks ago, I co-led a small group conversation about relationships. This was hard, given my habit of fearing to share this part of my story, and given that I’d only recently been shown more how to forgive.

In worship before leading the conversation, I knelt and sang: eyes closed, hands empty. I needed God. My friend Amy came and slipped a little yellow post-it note under my knee. Opening it up at the end of worship, I found these words:

I was praying for you, and this image came into my head.

Shape of the Eucharist: Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and shares.

God does this with our lives too.

Jesus, in gentleness and love, takes and blesses us, breaks and shares us. Our brokenness is used for his glory, to bring wholeness both to others and ourselves. Broken as he was; shared as he was.

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(photo source: https://loveinthelittlethingsblog.com/2013/09/29/taken-blessed-broken-and-given-further-reflections-of-henri-houwens-life-of-the-beloved/)

There is more to say here than I have the words for. Over the past seven weeks I have written much – not to share on this blog, but just to process, pray and rest. I have enjoyed wrestling with words that cannot contain the many awesome goodnesses that God has been surprising me with, goodnesses about how he ministers to others through my own stories of brokenness and grace; about how costly it is to let him do this; about how great the joy is when I get to see others flourish and be comforted because I have listened to God, and God has invited and allowed me to partner with him.

I am still wrestling with the words! And so I am hoping that these snapshots capture something of what I’m trying to say. Jesus broke for us, to make us whole. He takes and blesses, breaks and shares us, too – and although this is costly, his redemption of our stories brings wholeness to others. The wholeness brings joy: joy to the Father’s heart; joy to his children who see others testify and commit to his grace. Cost breaks out into abundance. Death breaks out into life, as we joyously proclaim at Easter. God is making all things new!

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

Matthew 26:26-28