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Last week, I wrote about being empty and that the material I had prepared came from that place; that was where I was and how I felt and to pretend otherwise would have served no one and would not have fooled God. If you did glance over the contemplative material last week then it would be natural to wonder in what state this week finds me and from whence this material comes.
Well, having felt so drained and out of resources last week, I turned to the material I had offered which included the suggestion to contemplate a cup. The cup is an ordinary little item; one that I certainly handle many times daily either as I have my various coffees and teas or as I do my share of filling and emptying the dishwasher of my own and the other cups in use in the house. It is such a simple item and yet full of wisdom to impart.
I have to admit that the thought of using the image of the cup was inspired partly by a book I bought many years ago by Joyce Rupp called The Cup of Our Life which takes this ordinary item and offers many weeks’ of contemplative material to help the reader deepen their walk with God.
Over the past week, with a cup I have chosen for the purpose of contemplation, I have reflected on the wisdom it can offer me. How it is filled and emptied. How periodic emptying is necessary to create the space for filling, renewal and refreshment.
I have held my empty cup and explored and thought about its hollow centre, its contours and its boundaries and how they are essential for the cup to fulfil its purpose.
I will continue to journey with my cup but what comes to the fore to share with you from it is that, as we live through the extraordinary, the ordinary continues to be the place of encounter with the sacred for God is over all, through all and in all as Paul tells us in chapter 4 verse 6 of his letter to the Ephesians.
We stand at all times on holy ground; the extraORDINARY can be found in the most mundane things and moments because God is here and he can use anything to speak to us.
I have thought back through the material that I have shared to date and I find the rock of the ages is present. The rock is such an ordinary image and yet it can have so much to say to us.
It is the rock falling into the pool of water that sets off the ripples leaving the question of what that rock is, what does it represent?
The resilience of the trees is partly taken from their rooting in the earth, the soft and hard ground, the foundation and rock that anchors them.
Our reflections on our current personal climate may have pointed us to scriptures that point to God as foundation, the rock upon which we build and find stability to weather the storm.
Patience was, Henri Nouwen suggested, to be found in the realisation that what we most desire and seek – God himself - is in the ground upon which we already stand with the image again of firmament and underlying rock.
The joy of Easter comes because the rock moved; the tomb could not contain the power and promise of the risen Christ.
Our review and reflection over our days, the silver linings of this time, can appear to us like beach pebbles might when shining in the sun after they have been washed by the sea but, equally, those moments that are dark and difficult, are as stumbling blocks, rocks over which we trip, and we need to identify them and learn to navigate round them.
Even the emptiness reveals the rock of the ages, the barren land, the hard ground, where nothing is growing but as we call out in our thirstiness for God saying
“My whole being longs for you in a dry and parched land where there is no water”
like the psalmist in Psalm 63, we may find the rains can come and transform the land as anyone who has seen the desert burst into flower knows.
Rock or cup, there are burning bushes everywhere. The daffodils in the image below called out to me to stop and notice them, and to remember that the name of the God I worship is I AM and he is with me not at some other time but in the present now.
And so I hear God’s invitation to me to walk a shade slower, to cast my gaze a fraction wider and to open my ears a little more fully to the countless extraORDINARY ways he fills my days through the most ordinary things.
So my invitation to you today is to discover the extraORDINARY in the ordinary around you and to be encouraged and refreshed as you do.
CENTRING EXERCISE (5 to 10 minutes as is comfortable for you)
As we begin in prayer, the invitation is to sit comfortably but alert. Allow your weight, as always, to rest heavily in your chair. Let go of the tension your body holds and trust God to hold you together as you do so. Take a few minutes, therefore, to allow tight muscles to relax. If you find this hard then a method that can help is to consciously tighten a muscle and then to consciously release it. If you screw up the muscles in your face and feel the tension there and then relax those muscles, you notice the change. You can do that throughout your body – gradually moving down to tighten and release shoulder, arm, hand, tummy, leg and foot muscles in turn.
Now turn your attention to your breathing – inhale and exhale deeply. Slow down your breathing pattern and, as you do, you might like to repeat quietly to yourself for a time the phrase “Come Holy Spirit, come”. Then simply be at rest for a time remembering you are sitting with and before God.
If you sense your attention wandering come back to this phrase “Come Holy Spirit, come”.
CONTEMPLATION (10 to 15 minutes)
The invitation is to find one of the items listed below (or any item of your choice for that matter) and to sit and contemplate it. So do really pay attention to it and think about things like what it is made of, how it is shaped, what its purpose is, and whether it is durable or deteriorates over time amongst other possibilities. In effect, let it speak and tell you about itself and, as you listen, be open to the wisdom which might be revealed. Come to this as prayer asking the Holy Spirit to guide your observations and listening.
A sponge or washing up brush
A coin or bank note
A pen or pencil
A pillow or cushion
I have tried to choose objects that we would all have. I have not personally sat and contemplated each of these objects so I have no preconceived ideas about what any one of them might have to say to you. I am confident, though, that they can say something of interest and value.
Give thanks for what you have received at the end of your time of contemplation.
MEDITATION (10 – 15 minutes)
I mentioned Ephesians 4: 6 earlier which offers us the reminder that God is over all and through all and in all.
It sits within a wider context as is apparent from the preceding verses of chapter 4 and which are given below to provide that context.
Ephesians 4: 1 – 6
As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. 2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 3 Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
I want you to have the wider context of verse 6 but the invitation is just to hold and reflect on this one verse.
Finish this time of meditation with a prayer of thanksgiving for what has been revealed and what has been received.