Two quilt designs from the Desmond and Leah Tutu Exhibition in Cape Town
Rejoice in the Lord always
4 Rejoice[c] in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. (Phil 4)
When I was a teenager the Methodist Church in Woodstock, was gutted by fire in the late 1960s. It was a central and significant place for many young people then. The pulpit text for the next Sunday was “Rejoice in the Lord Always, Again I say rejoice.”
What did it mean? Hadn’t our church burnt down! Shouldn’t we express anger at God? Despair at the ways of the world.
Or was it saying something deeper. It was not asking us to be romantic about our faith, to be unrealistic about what happens in the world. Or that God treats the people who serve God better than the enemies of God. No! Faith is realistic about the world, though grounded in hope and trust.
Christians and all people of faith, must of all people be realistic, and still be people of faith and common sense.
The poet and Sufi mystic of the 13th century Rumi told this delightful story:
There was once a man who was on his way back home from market with his camel and, as he’d had a good day, he decided to stop at a mosque along the road and offer his thanks to God.
He left his camel outside and went in with his prayer mat and spent several hours offering thanks to Allah, praying and promising that he’d be a good Muslim in the future, help the poor and be an upstanding pillar of his community.
When he emerged it was already dark and lo and behold – his camel was gone!
He immediately flew into a violent temper and shook his fist at the sky, yelling:
“You traitor, Allah! How could you do this to me? I put all my trust in you and then you go and stab me in the back like this!”
A passing sufi dervish heard the man yelling and chuckled to himself.
“Listen,” he said, “Trust God but, you know, tie up your camel.”
The way of faith doesn’t promise us a life of ease, or a life without suffering or illness, but it does promise us an individual and community way through all these difficulties.
For us to “rejoice in the Lord always” there needs to be an inner certainity and centredness.
I love the following two poems of Rainer Maria Rilke an Austrian by birth who found himself in a Russian monastry at the turning of the 18th century to that of the 19th. Of course there were many doom-mongers about as there was at the turning of the millennium.
Rilke 1800 -1900 From: The Book of the Monastic life
The hour is striking so close above me,
So clear and so sharp,
That all my senses ring with it.
I feel now: there’s a power in me
To grasp and give shape to my world.
I know that nothing has ever been real
Without my beholding it.
All becoming has needed me.
My looking ripens things
They come toward me, to meet and be met.
The second poem speaks of the challenge and the way forward
I live my life in widening circles
That reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one
But I give myself to it.
I circle around God, around the primordial tower.
I have been circling for thousands of years
And I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
A storm, or a great song?
I live my life in widening circles – But I give myself to it and my looking, ripens things. The way we observe and approach things, matters, and changes things, certainly in us. The approach and attitude we bring to people and things makes a huge difference in the world.
How good if all this emanates from an inner joy. I like to think that at our best we are part of a great song.
Prayer of St Theresa
May today there be peace within.
May you trust God that you are exactly where you are meant to be.
May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith.
May you use those gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that
has been given to you.
May you be content knowing you are a child of God.
Let this presence settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.
It is there for each and every one of us.
Bob Commin October 2017
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