Keeping Faith – Stay to make changes happen….

There was a time in my early 20’s that I considered leaving the British Methodist Church. It was a time, that as a young adult I felt that my plea and the plea from others my age in our circuit who wanted to deepen our faith. We could do that, but a certain person wanted to put restrictions in place as to who could lead us. That restriction eventually meant the group fell apart, we didn’t have what we needed to sustain us.

I decided to speak to someone who I knew was wise and very faithful, and they gave me a good piece of advice – “for change to happen, you need to be a part of that change”. In other words, leaving the church wouldn’t solve anything. Walking away from the thing I loved, was to walk away from part of my identity, my faith. It was about 10-15 years later that I realised just how true that was.

I battled with my desire to fulfil God’s calling in my life, calling me to a life of ministry of sharing the Love Christ has for all people. First though, I had to love myself and that included the part of God’s creation within me, my own sexuality, my homosexuality.

If I couldn’t love the whole of me, how could I show other just how much God loved them.

Yesterday was a traumatic day for many, the UMC fractured further as they voted to maintain its opposition to same-sex marriage, and gay clergy.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2019/02/26/united-methodist-church-votes-maintain-its-opposition-same-sex-marriage-gay-clergy/

While in the UK, the Lambeth Conference website showed this….

The image went wild on social media, an outcry of dispair, disbelief and sadness that certain people would be excluded because of who they loved. It was eventually changed later in the day.

It often seems easy to reject what we don’t understand or have been taught is wrong, or sinful. We may not always appreciate the hurt and despair sharing those opinions causes. The first commandment is to love God, the second to love our neighbour. If we love we don’t intentionally hurt others, though if we think what we are doing is right – well, that’s ok, isn’t it?

There are a lot of people hurting today, many who are angry on behalf of others, and then there are those who are thinking – how can churches hold all of our different views and stay together?

I know what it feels like to experience that kind of rejection, been there and done that! I feel for all our brothers and sisters no matter where in the world they live. If you know someone is hurting – encircle them with your love, and show them just how much you value them for who they are. If you are that person, I pray that you can lean on Jesus and find the strength through him to stay wherever you are, to ride out the storm around you, so you can be a part of the change to come. If you are someone who holds a different view, all I ask is that you are willing to continue the conversation, to accept that nothing is straight forward except for maybe one thing – That God loves each and everyone of us, we are all made in God’s image. There are some things that God created within each one of us that are not meant to be changed or driven out of us.

Just remember, God first loved us, through that we have the capacity to love each other, treat each other with equality and kindness. Though for many, just now, there needs to be space for healing and if you are contemplating leaving your church, denomination or faith, I pray, don’t make a quick decision. Take some time out and reflect, if you leave imagine what wonderful gift of Love they will loose – you! You are a beautiful gift of God, you are loved and you are love. There is a need to free the Holy Spirit within each one of us, my prayer is the freeing of that spirit of love in all of us, no matter where we stand on the theological scale. It is the recognition of love that sets us free to truly live as the people we were created to be.

A few articles that you may also find an interesting to read on the situation in the UMC

https://www.flumc.org/blogdetail/bishop-carter-comments-on-the-special-session-12763395

https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/02/united-methodists-fracture-lgbt-plan-rejected/583693/

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Road Trip – Highlights of Rhodes (part 4): Elafos Hotel

We went up and up and up into the mountains to Elafos Hotel before heading back to the south coast to our hotel.

There was a traditional tavern Elafaki (The young Deer) alongside the hotel’s main building and a church next door. You will notice the architecture is nothing like Greek buildings, it seemed very much out of place. The surrounding forest is home to a rare and unique kind of Dama Dama deer. Brought over to deal with the poisonous snakes that used to be on the island. If a Deer saw one, instead of running away they would stomp on it’s head.

On the drive back down the mountains to the coast, we passed this final little gem.

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Road Trip – Highlights of Rhodes (part 3): Lunch and Church Visit

We stopped in a lovely small village. Lunch was a three course meal! I’m glad we took a packed lunch as it was too hot to eat so much food. We wandered through the village and found the church we would be visiting later. We found a spot and had our picnic in the shade of the Church.

The Church was stunning and our guide gave us a really interesting history lesson about the architecture and why the churches are covered with so many frescoes – to get away from their pagan roots they had frescoes painted rather than having statues made. At the bottom of some of the frescoes you can see Greek names. These are the names of the families who paid for them to be painted.

Stunning!

We then walked through the village to a local shop that sold some of their local honey and drinks.

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Road Trip – Highlights of Rhodes (part 2): Filerimos Monastery and Cross

We can’t go to Rhodes and not go to a monastery or church. This trip took us to both!

Next stop up in the mountains in a small village for lunch and a visit to a church.

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Road Trip – Highlights of Rhodes (part 1): Kallithea Springs

This year we decided to push the boat out and go on two trips while we were on holiday. The first was a boat trip around the southern part of the island stopping in Lindos Bay and several others places where we had the chance to get out of the boat and swim in the sea.

The second trip was titled – Highlights of Rhodes

This trip stopped at several places around the northern part of the island.

We started at the Kallithea Springs. We had been there before on another trip a few years ago, but it was mid afternoon and way too hot to traipse around and enjoy it.

After the Springs we headed through Rhodes, passed what was left of the Acropolis – two and a half columns!

Then headed into the mountains.

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Flight to Rhodes

I consider myself fortunate that I enjoy flying, particularly as I’m often with a certain person who doesn’t. I have no fear of being that high, or fear the plane will fall – my fear is not being able to breathe, either under water or in a small space.

As we flew to Rhodes a couple of weeks ago, looking out of the window, this is what came to mind…

Clouds below and blue sky above

Beauty at the heart of creation

Where light always shines during the day

Turbulence hits…

Panic, stress and fear set in

From the depths of the earth

To the heights of heaven

There can be peace without and within

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Christian Art and the Bible – Mark 9: 2-13

The TransfigurationSix days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one[a] on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,[b] one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved;[c] listen to him!” Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.The Coming of ElijahAs they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean. 11 Then they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” 12 He said to them, “Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt? 13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him.”The story of the Transfiguration is one of those rare moments when we are permitted to encounter God’s intense fullness. Peter, James, and John were “very much afraid” when they saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain. Through out Jesus’ ministry we see many miracles and wonders, but, God chooses only rare moments to reveal his divine glory in the flesh, and then leaves witnesses for when the time is right the rest of us so we can believe.It’s a story that always makes me wonder why was it only those three disciples, why did they walk up a mountain? Because if other were nearby surely they would have asked when they went back down the mountain ‘what happened?’ Surely the light would have shown for miles. Then there is the fact this is the one time Jesus says don’t say anything – not yet! Other things needed to happen first but then they could tell anyone who would listen.The Transfiguration of Jesus, artwork by Andrew Gray

Mountain top experiences can be awe inspiring, physically and spiritually. Does the altitude have an effect on what we experience in those types of places? I love the emotional effect the painting above by Andrew Grey gives. By darkening the surroundings, using highlights on the disciples give the impression that the light was so intense that it made everything else seem dark.

A far more classical view is Raphael’s painting from 1520.

This is the last painting by the Italian Master painter. It was commissioned by Cardinal Giulio de Merdici, later Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) he worked on it for the Narbonne Cathedral as an altarpiece in France. Currently resides in Vatican City.

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