StJohn&StStephens-logo

Marvel-Superheroes

Not the Superhero we Imagine.

Once Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, and he answered, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed; 21 nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There it is!’ For, in fact, the kingdom of God is among[b] you.”
22 Then he said to the disciples, “The days are coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it. 23 They will say to you, ‘Look there!’ or ‘Look here!’ Do not go, do not set off in pursuit. 24 For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day. 25 But first he must endure much suffering and be rejected by this generation. Luke 17:20-25

This week we heard of the sad loss of Stan Lee, the creator of the Marvel Comics and The Marvel Universe.
Stan Lee is a unique figure in the comic book, a legend really.. who helped revive a flagging comic book industry in the 1960s into a strong and culturally significant force through the last 40/50 years.. His comic book heroes, Fantastic Four, Incredible Hulk, Spider Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, X-men etc, etc, etc  enliven the minds and imaginations of children, youth and adults alike… and the growing film franchises only continue that powerful unleashing of imagination and wonder….

But there is more to Stan Lee’s superheroes than spandex suits and ‘Wahm, Kapow and Klunk!’…
they are flawed.. all of them.

In fact it is now widely recognised that the very thing that made Stan Lee’s characters so convincing and awe-inspiring was the subtle depiction of their broken lives… Stan Lee’s characters had as many problems as they had powers; they argued with each other, had fallouts, had ego-issues, were often scared, reluctant, and .. like us were very human. It was the humanisation of these superheroes which made them far more appealing… that turned comic-books into art!

His most famous character of all, Spider Man, (true identity – Peter Parker) would regularly save New York city from ghastly and destructive foes. Yet Peter Parker was scared to ask Mary-Jane on a date, and struggled to balance work and school, and to fix his acne! Spiderman was very human.

Stan Lee was also keen to explore difference within his stories; he opposed bigotry and racism.. showed the damage that comes from excluding others who are different. The X-men are all ‘mutants’ whose fight is as much against prejudice and fear, as it is with nefarious forces.

Which brings me to Jesus …

The Marvel Superheroes show us a world where people could achieve great things, but often with and in spite of their flaws and inconsistencies. They open the possibility of wonder and awe found within the present day and the humdrum. Where dreams dance with depression.

Jesus seems to be point the same way too..’don’t be looking out there.. don’t be looking for the next big thing, the next revival.. it’s not there’. This kingdom, will turn your lives upside down, will transform the entire world .. but you cannot define it, or hold it. It’s not about a superero rising above this life; it is found within it.. within you.’ God is not outside but inside our very human lives.. stirring, inspiring, cajoling and comforting.

The kingdom – and the God – Jesus is speaking of is far more elusive, and cannot be pinned down to doctrine, tradition; we too cannot say ‘look there it is…!’
This God defies all we expect of her … and yet surprises us with the possible in impossibility, with silence and thought and art and friendship, and in the ‘suffering and rejection’ which must come..

The God Jesus speaks of – the God he reveals – excites the wonder in the everyday; the good and the bad, the mess and the magic.. This God turns up in unexpected places – walks beside us… within us.. knows us flaws and all.. and still calls us Super.

GS Collins. Cafe Eucharist. Nov 18

Gormley-Another Place

A multitude of saints

John 11:32-44 NRSV

32 When Mary came where Jesus was and saw him, she knelt at his feet and said to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, he was greatly disturbed in spirit and deeply moved. 34 He said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus began to weep. 36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again greatly disturbed, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, already there is a stench because he has been dead four days.” 40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” 41 So they took away the stone. And Jesus looked upward and said, “Father, I thank you for having heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I have said this for the sake of the crowd standing here, so that they may believe that you sent me.” 43 When he had said this, he cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out, his hands and feet bound with strips of cloth, and his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

So today is All Saints Day.. The celebration that gives thanks for ‘All the Saints’.. and the big point of All Saints is the removal of notions that saints are only these premier league icons.. and reminds us that all are saints.. all those who have gone before us… our friends, parents, loved ones. It’s a daytto reflect, to give thanks, to acknowledge our losses and grief.. and day to take stock, and yet still to give thanks that tose we ave lost are the gifts

I was reminded of two artworks by the Sculptor Antony Gormley; The Field and Another Place, both echo something of humanity.. and the sainthood.. there is something haunting about te stories of people.. the multitude of voices that ave inspired us… pointed our eyes away (to Another place?) to something beyond and unexpected.. or something small vulnerable and seemingly insignificant (field)– yet which still amasses in our presence (so that one cannot enter the room – notice).

Gormley-Field

I wanted to work with people and to make a work about our collective future and our responsibility for it. I wanted the art to look back at us, its makers (and later viewers), as if we were responsible – responsible for the world that it [FIELD] and we were in. I have made it – with help – five times in different parts of the world. AG

 

At Fireside we start with a lighting ritual were we acknowledge that wisdom belongs to all. Te gift/mystery of god (pictured in a lighted candle)is reflected as a light in all gathered for discussion.. The light is given and reflected in everyone.

And what do people point us towards.. where do the saints tell us to look?

Gormley-Another Place

The idea was to test time and tide, stillness and movement, and somehow engage with the daily life of the beach. AG

For Gormley they point beyond. They cause a reflection on the life and world we are saturated in.. they provoke wide-eyed wonder, the magic of the everyday. The saints point to G-d.

These two instances, Gormley’s Art – and the Fireside Candle remind us that the kingdom Jesus points towards is a kingdom here, and in the midst of us. It is not some far off heavenly thing waiting to happen.. the life of God is given now.

Of course the story of Lazarus also reminds us that death and suffering are very real, the pain is vivid and no amount of ‘spiritualising’ will remove Grief, sadness, disruption and disturbance. And Cost. The story we have heard is full of humanity.. you can easily picture the noise, the commotion, Mary falling at Jesus’ feet, the confusion – could more have been done? The incredulity, the disgust, the clamor… all very human!

We don’t romanticise the tears of Jesus. Pain is real. Pain of misunderstanding, disagreement? of grief? The life of God – even Gods tears are found in the fabric of Gods creatures, women and men, and children and parents.

We might also ask where Jesus tears come from – thinking Christologically – from the divine, or the human? Ow many times have you heard it explained that this is how God understands human grief.. but maybe its how humans might understand God’s grief?

Once again… God and humans working together revealing glory, wonder, humility, tragedy and awe.

And finally, we must remember that this is John’s gospel.. rich in sign and symbol. For John miracles are less about events that break the flow of nature – thay are signs which point somewhere else.. the raising of Lazarus is a reminder of another (soon to come) moment of tomb, cloth, stone – of weeping women and resurrection…

This story remind us that Jesus is calling us now.. the story of Lazarus works for all saints day.. because it is about the unexpected life of God emerging wherever it wills – from even the darkness of a tomb.. God,s gift this very day is the fullness of life.. not an immunisation from its challenges – but a savouring of the life which is divine, holy, and a gift. The saints.. all saints would tell us the same..

 

GS Collins. Cafe Communion. Nov 18

 

 

 

PrayerFlyer-2_Page_2

Week of Accompanied Prayer – 10-15 June

What is a Week of Accompanied Prayer?
• a daily half-hour meeting with an experienced prayer guide.
• and a daily time of prayer (aiming at 20-30 minutes).

Who is it for?
• Christians who want to deepen their prayer life.
• anyone unsure of belief, but willing to explore prayer.
Either way, it is for any generous soul willing to
commit to the elements of the week!

What is in the programme?
As well praying for up to 30 minutes each day and meeting with your prayer
guide, there are introductory and closing meetings with helpful suggestions
about how to get the most out of the week.

There will also be optional evening workshops (open to non-participants);
• prayer and creativity
• the practice of living fully in the present
• discernment and decision making.

Why do it?
When we are generous, God is more so! We encounter a God who loves and
calls us: it can be a great help in making or confirming decisions, big or small.

How much does it cost?
We ask for a contribution of £20 from participants. (If this is a problem, talk to
one of the organisers and we’ll work something out).
Please contact Ali Marshall, Mark Laynesmith
or Christine Bainbridge, via the Parish Office

water_ocean_blue_swimming_swim-144986.jpg!d

Staying Afloat

During the Soviet era in Russia many churches were put to alternative uses.  One that particularly stood out for me was a church that was converted into a swimming pool.  The dim lighting, the pictures of saints on the walls, the deep blue of a ceiling painted with stars, all contributed to an atmospheric swim.  The water in the pool was pleasantly warm.  Those swimming there commented on how rested and refreshed they felt after leaving.  Although I would not be pressing for our churches to become swimming pools (and that church in Russia has now been restored to its original use) I think that the image of the church as swimming pool is surprisingly apt.  At its best it’s a place where we can let go of some of our protective layers and take delight in allowing God’s love to bear our weight, just as water does when we swim.  Peace can seep into our hearts and minds, melting our worries and putting us in touch with a bigger picture where not everything depends on us.

Floating in God’s love requires practice in letting go.  We don’t necessarily trust the water to bear our weight.  We have to test it.  Someone may have to help us.  In the same way the church can encourage us to try out God’s love and to practise trusting in him as someone who loves us.  Our songs and prayers, our receiving bread and wine all encourage this.  They can lead us to experiment with bringing our whole selves to God, warts and all, trusting that he welcomes us as we are.

We can join with one of the saints, who addressed God as follows; ‘Dear Lord, you are a deep sea, into which the deeper I enter, the more I find, and the more I find, the more I seek…my soul delights in you, Eternal Trinity, Sea of Peace’.  Catherine of Siena

May we, like St Catherine, discover that ocean of God’s love and learn to revel in it.

 

Christine Bainbridge

Photo courtesy of Jo White

Moments from a Life … The Stations of the Cross 2018

Thanks to everyone who came and joined in with our Stations of the Cross meditation for Good Friday 2018.

This installation was entitled ‘Moments from a Life’ and was intended to reveal a hint at both Jesus’ early memories, his mother, his father’s carpentry tools, sawdust everywhere; .. alongside these were his final moments marked by the stations of the cross.
Within that, paints and brushes allude to an artistic hand.. maybe the painter of the stations, maybe the artistry of our own lives.. the brush strokes, textures, hints and shades.. and the inevitable messiness and goodness of it all.

The music always provokes some intrigue… here is a list from which music was layered into the service… you way want to explore;

Samuel Barber – String Quartet in B Minor, Op 11
Dreadzone – A Canterbury Tale
Brian Eno – Lux
Brian Eno – Music for Airports
Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan – Sea of Vapours
Gabriel Fauré – Requiem, Op. 48; 2. Offertoire
Henryk Gorecki – Totus Tuus
Hamlet Gonashvili – Tsintskaro
Jam & Spoon – Ancient Dream
The Late Late Service – Holy Space
Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares – Pritouritze Planinata
Opik – Travelling Without Moving
Arvo Part – Fratres
Arvo Part – Spiegel im Spiegel
Arvo Part – Cantus in Memorium Benjamin Britten
Jocelyn Pook – Desh: Hallelujah
Mark Pritchard – Beautiful People
Steve Reich – Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ
Hildegard von Bingen, Guy Sigsworth – O Beata Infantia Alio Modo
Hildegard von Bingen, Guy Sigsworth – O Virtus Sapienta
John Tavener – Song for Athene
John Tavener – The Lamb
TTU – One Thousand Years
Underworld – To Heal