I was talking to a friend recently about Lectio Divina and mentioned how I like to use the image of having a piece of chocolate in my mouth and letting it melt slowly - savouring each moment. His response? 'I think I'll imagine it with single malt whisky!' Now, there's a thought!

If you don't know what Lectio Divina is and would like a simple set of instructions (including the chololate bit), then try this. If you're a seasoned expert(!) then please read on...

The story of Jacob wrestling with a man/angel/God at the Ford of Jabbok has, in the past, moved me very deeply. It is a inspiring reading for the Lenten season and so I am suggesting that you read it using this method of Lectio Divina. Lectio is a way of praying the scriptures rather than studying the scriptures, so take a little time first to find a quiet, comfortable spot and to still your body and mind as much as possibke.

Remember - read the passage slowly a couple of times, then dwell on the part that speaks to you the most.

Jacob, having years before shamelessly swindled his brother Esau, is about to meet him again for the first time since the debacle. He is nervous and unsure of what sort of welcome he will receive. So he plans a little party of people to go ahead and 'soften' his brother's heart with gifts. After they leave, he settles down to sleep....


From Genesis 32

He instructed the foremost, ‘When Esau my brother meets you, and asks you, “To whom do you belong? Where are you going? And whose are these ahead of you?” then you shall say, “They belong to your servant Jacob; they are a present sent to my lord Esau; and moreover he is behind us.” ’ He likewise instructed the second and the third and all who followed the droves, ‘You shall say the same thing to Esau when you meet him, and you shall say, “Moreover your servant Jacob is behind us.” ’ For he thought, ‘I may appease him with the present that goes ahead of me, and afterwards I shall see his face; perhaps he will accept me.’ So the present passed on ahead of him; and he himself spent that night in the camp.

The same night he got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.

Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, ‘Let me go, for the day is breaking.’ But Jacob said, ‘I will not let you go, unless you bless me.’ So he said to him, ‘What is your name?’ And he said, ‘Jacob.’

Then the man said, ‘You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.’ Then Jacob asked him, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he said, ‘Why is it that you ask my name?’ And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.’ The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip. Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the thigh muscle that is on the hip socket, because he struck Jacob on the hip socket at the thigh muscle.


What was going on for Jacob during that night, that dream, that vision. Guilt? Struggle for acceptance? For self-acceptance?

Perhaps the Anchor Bible Dictionary summarises it well in suggesting that the ‘unnamed man symbolizes every person with whom Jacob struggled — Esau, Isaac, Laban — and yet, the man at the beginning of the story is certainly God at the end…. The story, therefore, in an overt polyvalence, blends Jacob’s conflict with people and with God into one event.’

Every person with whom he struggled should also, of course, include himself.

May God's blessing be upon and within you this Lent.

Guest Blog: Artisans by Andrew Rudd

Andrew Rudd is a Cheshire poet who, during 2006, was the fourth Cheshire Poet Laureate. He has previously written a guest blog for Reflections about the show Fourpenny Circus that he and three other poets produced in 2009. He has kindly accepted my invitiation to write another guest blog, so without more ado - here is Andrew.........

Artisans


We were visiting Taizé some years ago. In most of my life I am surrounded by English speakers, but at any given time there can be thirty different languages at Taizé, as visitors come from all over the world. Sometimes in the worship, there might only be one sentence of English. I was amazed, as usual, by my lack of knowledge of other languages.

But it does make you pay attention! We were singing the Beatitudes in French when I noticed the words for ‘Blessed are the peace-makers’ – in French this is ‘Bienheureux les artisans de paix…’

It suddenly struck me that peace is an art form, it is not just something that happens accidentally at the end of violence or when there is a cease fire. It is something that has to be made or created in our life together. Maybe this is the most important kind of creativity, where we make shalom, where we build community. And maybe one of the best things about art – sculpture, painting, music, poetry – is when it helps us to understand each other better, when it opens our awareness, when it makes peace.

This thought resulted in the poem ‘Artisans’ which is to be broadcast on the 21st of February on Radio 4’s ‘Something Understood.’ If you don’t know this wonderful programme, I would recommend it. It is a collage of words and music which explore a ‘spiritual’ theme in a very fresh way. The only snag is the timing – it is broadcast very early on Sunday morning (6.05 am) and then repeated at the end of the same day (11.30pm). Fortunately, you can catch it during the following week on Listen Again.


Artisans

‘Bienheureux les artisans de paix…’


Blessed the singers of peace,
lamenting the unfinished business, sorrow
and dream: whose song changes nothing
but opens everything to change.


Blessed the potters of peace,
hands in the clay, shaping, smoothing,
reaching for hidden form, braving
the furnace for beauty.


Blessed the embroiderers of peace:
at their needle’s touch, an ordinary surface
shines in a sacrament of colour, angles
softened into treasures of texture.


Blessed the sculptors of peace
who look at the intractable
slab, and see marvels within it,
and reach for the chisel.


Blessed the poets of peace
who bear all voices into their emptiness,
settling stresses into speech
which at the last is music.

Do you spend some moments in the first hours of each waking day being present with God? Perhaps you read morning prayer (matins as it was once called)? Perhaps you have a 'quiet time'? Perhaps you sit and look at the garden and wonder?

Whatever you may do, perhaps (another perhaps!) you might on one day take this poem by George Herbert into your time of prayer and lose yourself in it. Herbert was a Welshman living in the early 17th century who, after the death of his sponsor King James I, became an Anglican clergyman. He was a faithful and much-loved parish priest and wrote beautiful religious poetry which was published after his death. If you haven't read any of his poetry, he is worth investigating.

George Herbert is remembered in the Anglican church on 27th February - so perhaps you might take this poem into your prayer on that particular day!

I suggest you read it out loud.

Mattens

I cannot ope mine eyes,
But thou art ready there to catch
My morning-soul and sacrifice:
Then we must needs for that day make a match.

My God, what is a heart?
Silver, or gold, or precious stone,
Or starre, or rainbow, or a part
Of all these things, or all of them in one?

My God, what is a heart?
That thou shouldst it so eye, and wooe,
Powring upon it all thy art,
As if that thou hadst nothing els to do?

Indeed mans whole estate
Amounts (and richly) to serve thee:
He did not heav’n and earth create,
Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.

Teach me thy love to know;
That this new light, which now I see,
May both the work and workman show:
Then by a sunne-beam I will climbe to thee.

George Herbert: The Temple (1633)



Portrait of George Herbert
by Robert White in 1674

From Wikipedia

This morning I attended a local planning meeting for the Christian Aid Week in May 2010. It was good to meet and talk with others, particularly those I had not met before - amongst other things, we shared ideas and dreams. But, for me, the most moving part of the morning was seeing footage and stills from Kenya, where the water shortage, due to ongoing drought, is taking a huge toll in human suffering.

So, as I have been reflecting on this, I thought I would like to share with you some of the words of Archbishop Oscar Romero about our response as Christians to the poor and those in need.

Archbishop Romero was outspoken about violations of human rights and social injustice in El Salvador and he became an advocate of liberation theology - which emphasises social justice and political activism. He was martyred in March 1980 whist taking a communion service in a hospital chapel.

He cuts to the heart of the problem of rich Christians in an age of hunger. His teaching is always based on the gospel message of Jesus - often quoting directly Jesus' words in a challenging way to those of us in developed countries. Sometimes we like to spiritualise away the plain message that Jesus taught. I hope that these words of Romero's will speak to your heart.


It is inconceivable that someone is called 'Christian' and does not make a preferential option for the poor as Christ did. It is a scandal when today's Christians criticize the church because it is concerned with the poor.

Homily Sept 9th 1979

This is the church that I want. A church that does not rely on the privileges and the worth of earthly things. A church ever more detached from earthly things, so that she can judge them more freely from her perspective of the gospel, from her poverty.

Homily Aug 28th 1977


I wonder what your feelings are on reading these words? Do you agree or disagree? I would love to hear your thoughts.

A prayer of Archbishop Romero's can be found here.

With blessings.