Posts Tagged ‘Youth Assembly’

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seeing God in one another

September 13, 2008

It was my intention to use a particular story last weekend at youth assembly and I can’t help but wonder why I didn’t because it is perfect. In all the hustle and bustle and recreating it went out of my head.

Like others, I have continued to reflect on the weekend and there were times when we didn’t get it right but that happens, we learn and move on. It’s a new format and there were always going to be teething problems.

In a couple of the sessions we desperately wanted to encourage people to look beyond the labels and stereotypes to see people as they are in their particular circumstances. We wanted to explore the impact of those circumstances on their relationships but also the perceptions that people hold. We wanted to challenge and, to a degree, that’s what we did. But I’m left feeling dissatisfied. I wish we’d done so many things differently that would have allowed a flow of conversation from one session to the other. We lost sight of that when deliverances became our focus.

This story says what we may not have achieved in saying last weekend. It’s about relationships, seeing God in one another and finding God in unexpected places. It’s a beautiful story which I hope you enjoy even if you’ve heard it before.

There was once an old monastery which had lost its inspiration. The same routines were performed as they had always been, but there were no new novices and little enthusiasm for the rites of prayer.

The Abbot saw all this and he grieved. At a loss as to how to change things, he paid a visit to an old hermit who lived in the woods. The hermit welcomed him in and spread the table with bread and cheese and wine. After they had eaten together the recluse addressed the Abbot.

You and your brothers have lost the fire of God. You come seeking wisdom from me. I will tell you a secret, but you can only repeat it once. After that no one must say it aloud again. The hermit then looked deep into the eyes of the Abbot and said, ‘The Messiah lives among you.’

They were both silent as the Abbot considered the import of this saying. ‘Now you must leave’ the hermit said.

Returning to the monastery, the Abbot called all the monks together and told them that he had a teaching which he had been given by God. He added that the teaching was never to be repeated out loud again. Then the Abbot looked at each of his brothers and said, ‘The Hermit says that one of us is the Messiah.’

The monks were startled. ‘What could this mean?’ they wondered silently. ‘Is John with the big nose the Messiah? Or Father Matthew who keeps falling asleep at prayer? Am I the Messiah? But puzzled as they were they never repeated the saying again

As time went by, the monks began to treat one another with a special love and reverence. There was a gentle, whole-hearted, human quality about them now which was hard to describe but easy to see. They lived with each other as those who had finally found something of significance. Their words were careful, considered and gentle. Who could tell when they might be speaking to the Messiah?

Before long, the vitality of the monastery attracted many visitors and young men began asking to join the community. The old hermit died without revealing any more and the Abbot sometimes wondered if he had understood correctly.

From ‘alt.spirit@metro.m3’ by Mike Riddell

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connected

August 24, 2008

In two weeks time I’ll be in the midst of discussion as the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly delegates consider the enormity of what relationships are all about.

When I was asked to co-ordinate this particular topic it seemed like a good idea but, as is so often the case, now I’m not so sure I can do it justice (it’s a self-belief thing and I’m working on it!). Alternatively, when I consider some the preparation to date and the discussions I’ve had with my team, I believe we can.

For me relationships are about connection. Not only with those we love and who love us but with the wider community, the people on the fringes of our society, the ones we sometimes choose to ignore. Sadly the truth is that because we’re flawed individuals we do make choices based on our values and beliefs whether we’re conscious of that or not. Is loving one another really so difficult? It would appear so. It’s not easy to say that as Christians we’re not always so tolerant.

What are the characteristics of an assembly of people who care?

Jesus led by example when he mixed with the ignored, stigmatised, diseased, misunderstood, judged and condemned? Was it ok for Jesus but too hard for us? The truth, again, is yes it is sometimes.

Seeing others with a compassionate heart will mean stepping outside our comfort zones and stepping into a world of uncertainty and doubt. Demonstrating God’s Grace by showing commitment, empathy and a willingness to see beyond the divisions that separate may leave us feeling vulnerable, uncomfortable and not in control. But maybe that is what’s needed to create a community based on honesty and caring without any conditions attached?

So who’s entitled to a meaningful and worthwhile life – a life of hope and opportunity where relationships play an integral part? A selected few or everyone without exception? How can we dare to play a part in that?