Tag Archives: Richard Rohr

Pentecost (Year A, 12 June 2011)

The risen life: in the Spirit

Acts 2.1-21
John 7.37-39


A few years ago, I was visiting Harrogate, the Yorkshire town in which I was born. I had a feeling I’d like to go to a nearby place called Ripon, just to see it again. So I went to the railway station, and asked for a ticket to Ripon.

The lad behind the counter looked stupefied. He said, ‘Trains ’aven’t run t’Ri’om since t’mid-60s.’ (Long, may I add, before he was born. For him, this was a factoid he’d managed to imbibe.) My accent gets quite Yorkshire-ish when I’m over there, so there was no point saying, ‘I didn’t know, I’m from Australia.’ There are times over there when I must appear to be quite stupid.

Sometimes, people ask me about what things are like in England. I have no idea. My personal ‘England’ is something that was last seen in the 1960s through the eyes of an eleven-year old child.

Anything I know about the England of today I know through the news, and through talking to people who’ve been there recently; my knowledge of England is second-hand at best. That’s surely true of much of my knowledge about God. I believe what I believe because it’s what is taught by people I trust. When I was a boy, I had a sense of God. I don’t believe that sense of God was second-hand; but the specifics, the details, the bits I coloured my sense of God in with—they were all second-hand. Of course they were.

But as I’ve grown older, I’ve been less inclined to stick with second-hand knowledge. I’ve needed to test what I’ve been told about God by my own experience.

But how do I get experience of God? There’s only one way I know—through the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit. We’ve just sung

Lord, unveil my eyes,
let me see you face to face,
the knowledge of your love
as you live in me.

Isn’t that what we want?

We’ve already heard about some ways of connecting with the Spirit. We talked a lot about spiritual practices last year. Practices like prayer, study, confession, worship. We’ve spoken this year about living as people of the Beatitudes, as the poor in spirit, the meek who hunger and thirst for justice, as the pure in heart who wait upon God. It’s putting these things into practice, not just talking about them, that gives us experience of God’s Spirit.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to someone who knew something of God our Father through the working of the Holy Spirit. Her name was Catherine of Siena, a town in Tuscany, Italy. Catherine lived from 1347–1380 (do the maths: she died at 33 years of age). Catherine was a woman of great initiative and courage who often told popes and cardinals how they should behave.

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Easter Vigil (Year A, 23 April 2011)

A shared and bigger future together

Gospel Reading
Matthew 28.1-10

Richard Rohr says it so well, as usual, and much better than I can. From his Daily Meditations, 1 January 2011:

The raising up of Jesus is not a showy miracle on God’s part, but God’s eternal promise to humanity of a FUTURE that we can enter and trust together.

On a recent day of prayer, I did some Scripture study on the four Gospel accounts of the resurrection of Jesus. Something became very clear to me that I had never seen before!

The texts do not really emphasise a miraculous ‘returning’ of Jesus’ body, nearly as much as Jesus’ new cosmic body leading us ‘forward!’

Note that he sends his disciples forward into Galilee (Matthew 28.7), into the whole world (Mark 16.20), into their own futures (Acts 1.11)—and without any baggage from the past. Continue reading


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Near occasions of grace

I’ve been struggling with what to say this Sunday… So many possibilities, but little inspiration. I caught a phrase this morning in a wonderful book of Richard Rohr’s I use, called Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, in which he writes:

We want to plant ourselves in near occasions of grace, yet we spend all our life avoiding near occasions of sin. Can there be situations that we allow ourselves to enter which will force us to reevaluate everything? That is certainly what the Third World did for me. That’s what joining the Franciscans as a young man did for me, that’s what New Jerusalem did for me. You have to find those situations and contexts and ways of looking out at the world, so you will feel and think differently about reality. It won’t come just from sermons and books. We are converted through new circumstances. Grace best gets at us when our guard is down.

(If you buy any book in 2011, buy this one: It’s a treasure.)

I’m pondering ‘near occasions of grace’ in the wake of the flood/kingdom of God as a theme for preaching in two days. Might happen. Might not.

It also reminded me of U2’s excellent song, Grace, from All that you can’t leave behind. Here’s a clip from YouTube:

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Advent wisdom from Richard Rohr

I love Richard Rohr’s insights and way of putting things. This is from Preparing for Christmas with Richard Rohr:

Jesus said it to us quite clearly: “Why do you worry like the pagans do?  What shall I eat? What shall I drink?  What shall I wear?”  (Matthew 6:31).  But for some reason, the human mind feels most useful when it reprocesses the past and worries about the future.

For some reason, the mind cannot just be present to the moment, where it could find delight in the “birds in the sky” and the “lilies of the field” that Jesus has just described as the simple antidote to all of our “worrying.” He says “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will take care of itself” (6:34).

Jesus clearly lived in the now or he could not have talked so foolishly.  When we live in the present we tend to notice the natural world, when we live in our heads, we compare, worry, and judge.

Great wisdom. Maybe in a few Advents’ time I’ll have put it into practice.

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Second Sunday in Advent (Year A, 5 December 2010)

Confronted, converted, consoled

Isaiah 11.1-10
Matthew 3.1-12

The spiritual writer Richard Rohr says this in his series Preparing for Christmas:

‘The Word of God confronts, converts, and consoles us—in that order.’

I’d like us to think about our preparation for the coming of Jesus into our lives and into our world with those words in mind:

The Word of God confronts, converts, and consoles us—in that order.

The Word of God confronts us:

I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t like to have John the Baptist as a neighbour. I reckon he’d be an argumentative old… thing. If you invited him for a barbecue, he’d insist on bringing his own locusts to chuck on the barbie rather than have snags and kangaroo steaks. And he’d want to talk about the state of my soul all the time.

He’d be a confronting neighbour. He’d always be telling me to repent of this and that and the other thing.

I’d get annoyed at his continual going on and on. After all, I’m a minister of the Word. I’ve got a PhD in theology. I work full-time for God! Surely I’m ok?

And John, for the last time, I don’t want a piece of barbecued locust! I don’t care if it does have your special wild honey marinade! I just don’t want to eat locust!

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Richard Rohr has written a new book called On The Threshold of Transformation: Daily Meditations for Men. I’ve ordered my copy, but excerpts are appearing in his Daily Meditations. (You can subscribe here.) I found today’s excerpt particularly helpful:

Much of a man’s life is spent going to work, running errands, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, waiting in lines, attending meetings, and tending to the necessary but endless minutia that make up life.  We know that we can’t live as if we’re in the middle of an Indiana Jones adventure.  We know that much of life is rather dull and repetitive.  That’s why it’s so important to be fully present to the ordinary things that keep us going: a movie, a concert, dinner with a friend.  Anything you do fully gives you joy.  Anything done halfheartedly will bore you.  People do not tire from overwork nearly as much as from halfheartedness.  Wholeheartedness requires that a person be fully present.  And people who are present are most ready to experience the Presence.

In the middle of the ordinary, in the midst of the tedium, if we pay attention to the Presence, we will be blessed by joy, grace, and simple, sustaining pleasures.  We no longer need religious highs to know God; the lows and mediums are more than high enough.

Wholeheartedly living in the ‘now’ is for me a great stress buster. If I am present to what I am doing—to the person I am with at the moment—I can attend with all I’ve got. I can then turn to something or someone else and give my attention where it now belongs. When I am able to do this, I am not preoccupied with what’s going to happen/what should have happened/what did happen. I am present to the Now.

It reminds me of a quotation from George MacDonald, a great source of inspiration for CS Lewis: he spoke of “living in the eternal carelessness of the eternal Now”. Isn’t that a great aim for life?

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Richard Rohr on being in the darkness

A profound reflection from Richard Rohr (in Everything Belongs: the Gift of Contemplative Prayer):

I think Jesus’ primary metaphor for the mystery of transformation is the sign of Jonah (Matt. 16:4, 12:39, Luke 11:29). It’s taken on a great significance for me. I was reading the Gospel passage in which Jesus says, “It is an evil and adulterous generation that wants a sign” (Luke 11:29). He said the only sign he will give us is the sign of Jonah. That’s the only sign Jesus offers. Think of all the other signs, apparitions, and miracles that religion looks for and seeks and even tries to create. But Jesus says it is an evil and adulterous generation that looks for these things. That’s a pretty hard saying. He says instead we must go inside the belly of the whale for a while. Then and only then will we be spit upon a new shore and understand our call. That’s the only pattern Jesus promised us. Paul spoke of “reproducing the pattern” of his death and thus understanding resurrection (Phil. 3:11). That teaching will never fail. The soul is always freed and formed in such wisdom. Native religions speak of winter and summer; mystical authors speak of darkness and light; Eastern religion speaks of yin and yang or the Tao. Seasons transform the year; light and darkness transform the day. Christians call it the paschal mystery, but we are all pointing to the necessity of both descent and ascent.

The paschal mystery is the pattern of transformation. We are transformed through death and rising, probably many times. There seems to be no other cauldron of growth and transformation.

We seldom go freely into the belly of the beast. Unless we face a major disaster like the death of a friend or spouse or loss of a marriage or job, we usually will not go there. As a culture, we have to be taught the language of descent. That is the great language of religion. It teaches us to enter willingly, trustingly into the dark periods of life. These dark periods are good teachers. Religious energy is in the dark questions, seldom in the answers. Answers are the way out. Answers are not what we are here for. When we look for answers, we’re looking to change the pattern. When we look at the questions, we look for the opening to transformation. The good energy is all in the questions, seldom in the answers. Fixing something doesn’t usually transform us. We try to change events in order to avoid changing ourselves. Instead we must learn to stay with the pain of life, without answers, without conclusions, and some days without meaning. That is the path, the perilous dark path of true prayer.

Simone Weil said, “It is grace that forms the void inside of us and it is grace alone that can fill the void.” Grace leads us to the state of emptiness, to that momentary sense of meaningless in which we ask, “What is it all for? I don’t want to wake up tomorrow.” A woman called me yesterday whose husband had just died. She could not imagine why she would want to live and couldn’t imagine how it would ever be different again. All I could do was just tell her, “Believe me, believe me.” She said, “I’ll trust you.” I told her, “Some day this immense bottomless pit of pain will go away.”

It should be the work of Christians who believe in the paschal mystery to help people when they are being led into the darkness and the void. The believer has to tell those in pain that this is not forever; there is a light and you will see it. This isn’t all there is. Trust it. Don’t try to rush through it. We can’t leap over our grief work. Nor can we skip over our despair work. We have to feel it. That means that in our life we have some blue days or dark days. Historic cultures saw it as the time of incubation, transformation, and necessary hibernation. It becomes sacred space, and yet this is the very space we avoid. When we avoid darkness, we avoid tension, spiritual creativity, and finally transformation. We avoid God who works in the darkness—where we are not in control! Maybe that is the secret.


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