The Parable of the Three Servants

I need change.

I fear change.

I crave safety and familiarity.

I need change.

I need to live and work in such a way to be true to the direct spiritual experiences that have punctuated my life since 2005. These are the experiences that have brought me, a former hardened atheist,  back to Christianity but have thus far, not brought about any changes in my outer life.

In an effort to do something about this and open new career opportunities, I drafted an email to Christians Against Poverty (or CAP as they are commonly known) after hearing about their excellent work on BBC Radio 4’s Today program, enquiring whether they had any suitable vacancies. But then, I hesitated… and after hesitating I abandoned the email… and then I berated myself for even thinking that I am capable of changing career direction at this point in my life when I have a family to support and a mortgage to pay.

At Church on Sunday the Gospel reading was from Matthew 25:14-30. It couldn’t have been more apt and it served as a kick up the backside from Jesus, prompting me to stop making excuses and start committing my life to God.

26 His master answered, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown, and gather where I have not winnowed. 27 Then you ought to have given my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.

28  ‘So take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents.29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from him who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And throw the unprofitable servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

I’m definitely guilty of burying the gifts of the Spirit I’ve been given and I recognise the outer darkness from my many out-of-body-experiences. It was in this outer darkness that I heard the voice of God berate me.

Now I know why.

This made me retrieve my abandoned email to CAP, complete it and hit the send button.

I hope that they don’t bin it – it was a bit of a rambling mess, so I could understand if they write me off as a crazy man – but even if they do, at least I’ve taken a positive step forward into transitioning into the fulfilling Christian outer-life I intuitively feel is waiting for me.

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Ask Not What You Can Do for God, Ask What God Can Do for You

Wait a minute, surely, there’s a mistake in that title? I got it the wrong way around, right?

Wrong.

After my last post, inspired by the parable of the unforgiving slave, something was nagging at me. There was something deeper within the parable that was speaking to me, something that I had missed.

And then it came to me!

The unforgiving slave had pleaded to the king for forgiveness of his debts, but refused to show forgiveness to his fellow slave. The king found out and forgiveness was revoked.  The king’s forgiveness was contingent upon the slave’s ability to forgive others. There is something in the dynamic here that I believe has a much wider application than in respect of forgiveness alone.

I want to be healthy. I want fantastically good health and to live a long life. Do you think God would grant me that if I were to ask? Maybe. But maybe there’s a condition attached; the condition being that I have to work in some way to improve the health of others and then God will answer my plea.

OK, I also want to be wealthy. Not because I desire material trappings or the admiration of others, but simply so I can feel financially secure and dedicate more time to things that I’m passionate about: family, friends, travel and spiritual exploration. I’ve never prayed for wealth because I consider it to be an earthly matter that I ought to be able to resolve for myself, but perhaps I should be helping others become wealthy and in doing so, will qualify for a divine dividend.

So after pondering this for a while, I naturally started to think about the “The Secret”* and the multitudinous other works based upon the purported law of attraction (LOA), all offering to grant you your wishes if you just think about them in the right way. I’ve always been  repulsed by their glossy adverts and the materialistic sentiments that they leverage to  draw people in. And yet, I do think that there is something magical to be discovered in creative visualisation – but perhaps that will be the topic of another post sometime.

The critical difference between the teaching in the parable and those of the greed-mongers is the condition that you will do your utmost to create the conditions you are seeking for yourself, for others.

So often in my own life I’ve become so caught up in the daily grind, so preoccupied with my scarce financial resources that I’ve been consumed with trying to improve my own situation, without stopping to think whether I could be helping others who may be in the same position. I think this is a perfectly natural mode of behaviour and that it would take a real act of will to think beyond the boundaries of one’s own circumstances, but that is what I am going to aspire to do.

So get asking God for favours and perhaps, if you do your bit to help others obtain whatever it is you desire, you may just find your prayers are answered.

What do you think? Am I on to something here?

*I need to be completely honest and admit that I’ve never read or watched The Secret, but have had discussions with friends who are proponents of it.

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17 September 2017 – Forgiveness

I’ve been in a rather introverted state of mind this last year. I’m going through a phase where I feel like a fraud in many areas of my life – particularly in my career, but also in my spiritual life too. This morning’s Church service was great however, a real “invigorator”, helped in no small part by the hymns, one of which was Dear Lord and Father of Mankind, my favourite. I just pity the poor people sat near me who had to endure my enthusiastic but not-so-tuneful rendition!

Have you ever heard the voice of God?

Last year, on two occasions, I believe I heard God speaking directly to me. In each instance, after going to bed and falling asleep, I woke into sleep paralysis and then found myself in the void. The void is a state of consciousness where I am fully aware, but have no sense or conception of a physical self. It is often the state from which I will be projected into an out-of-body experience / astral projection but quite often weird things happen in that state too and I have come to think of it as a place where the greater self integrates into the everyday, waking self.

In this place, quite unexpectedly, a voice spoke to me. The voice was so grand it could have shaken the atoms of my being apart, yet it was crystal clear. What was said will remain between me and God, but until this morning I don’t think I quite understood the meaning.

Matthew 18:32-351599 Geneva Bible (GNV)

32 Then his lord called him unto him, and said to him, O evil servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou prayedst me.

33 Oughtest not thou also to have had pity on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?

34 So his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due to him.

35 So likewise shall mine heavenly Father do unto you, except ye forgive from your hearts, each one to his brother their trespasses.

Forgiveness. Such a simple concept and generally, I have considered myself to be a very forgiving person. However, a deeper truth hit me today. Forgiveness is not just about looking back on our lives and forgiving every unjust act that’s every been dealt us by others, it’s about living in a permanent state of forgiveness.

This doesn’t mean that we have to be completely passive, but it means that we need to adopt an attitude of graceful forgiveness in realtime. That’s tricky when we’re caught up in the daily grind, but we can start by keeping in mind that humans are implusive by their nature, often reacting to events without clear thought and too much emotion. If our first response is to react in the same way, we just add more chaos and emotion to the situation and become part of the problem.

Instead, we need to adopt a higher perspective and make it our daily objective to pass on to others that which we seek from God and to do this in each and every interaction with others. If we can try to contemplate the vastness of God’s grace then even the biggest problems begin to feel trivial against such awesomeness.

Perhaps collectively, intead of movements of mass protest, we should be creating movements of mass forgiveness, spreading grace instead of exacerbating chaos.

As verse 35 warns us, it is in our highest interest to do this.

Dear Lord and Father of Mankind

 

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15th May 2016 – Pentecost

A beautiful sunny Sunday morning coaxed me from a dreamless sleep before my alarm sounded. I got up, roused my son and after eating breakfast, washing and getting ourselves dressed, we walked to Church: our first visit for a few weeks.

Todays readings were:

Acts 2:1-21

John 14:8-17

Our vicar is a stand-in whilst the parish is between vicars. He’s a lovely chap who has been part of our community for as long I can remember (30 years or more) and who seems to run the churches in our parish (two of them) in the absence of a vicar. He does this without pay, as I understand. What strikes me most about him, is his conviction. His conviction can be too much for some people, but as far as I am concerned, I want to hear from people who for whatever reason, have an unshakeable faith in their spiritual path.

In his sermon, he explained that the reading in Acts describes the first birthday of the Church: the first coming together of the disciples after Jesus had ascended (please do correct me here, if I have made any errors). He skipped over the rushing wind sound described in the second verse but talked of how those gathered were filled with the Holy Spirit and how we should make room for the Holy Spirit to enter us.

One thing that interested me, is that the sound of rushing wind precipitated the expression of spiritual gifts amongst those in attendance. The description of the sound reminded me very much of the sensation of leaving one’s body which is described generally as ‘vibrations’ in any number of books on the subject (see authors Robert Monroe; Robert Bruce; Robert Peterson; Jurgen Ziewe, Marilynn Hughes). All of these authors describe out-of-body-experiences (‘OBEs’) as being preceded by intense vibrations and loud rushing sounds. Indeed, my own early OBE’s were characterised by these exact sensations and so I wonder whether the rushing wind sound described in the was not actually a physical wind, but ‘vibrations’ experienced en-mass by the disciples?

Verses 16 and 17 of Acts 2 also caught my attention:

16 But this is that, which was spoken by the [l]Prophet Joel,

17 [m]And it shall be in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon [n]all [o]flesh, and your sons, and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.

Whilst it would be easy to look at my own night time journals, written since 2005, as well as the plethora of blogs written by countless men and women of all ages concerning their personal spiritual experiences, to conclude that these surely, are the last days of which Joel prophecised, I would argue that every generation could have said the same. Rather than join the doom mongers (although in all honesty I regularly count myself in their number!) I’d pefer to consider this from a microcosmic perspective and suggest that the ‘last days’ spoken of are the last days of spiritual ignorance within the individual.

During the period of my own spiritual awakening, I had some startling precogntive dreams. The reference to portents in heaven above and signs in the earth below, as well as blood, fire and smoky mist, all have a flavour of daoist imagery to my mind and if I ever have the time, I will investigate this more thoroughly.

As for The Gospel reading, the vicar conspicuously avoided even mentioning verses 12 to 14…

12 [b]Verily, verily I say unto you, he that believeth in me, the works that I do, he shall do also, and [c]greater than these shall he do: for I go unto my Father.

13 And whatsoever ye ask in my Name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

14 If ye shall ask anything in my Name, I will do it.

…but instead emphasised the proceeding verse stating that if we do not truly love Jesus we fall into sin!

But looking at verses 12-14, here we have Jesus telling Philip that the faithful, the truly faithful, will be capable of doing the works he does. And not only that, they will do greater works. I don’t see, in my church at least, the sick being healed and miracles taking place. In 2000 years, I see that organised Christian religion has amassed millions of followers and countless millions in wealth, but in terms of miracles, the cupboards are bare. It saddens me to say that whilst Christendom has succeeded in keeping the narrative of Jesus’ life alive, it has failed in its primary purpose which is to hand individuals the key to the door to the Kingdom of Heaven which as you well know, is to be found within you.

It’s no wonder that the churches fail in this if our vicars avoid even discussing what Jesus meant or intended when he said those words to Philip.

We need to open ourselves up to the possibility of doing greater works than Jesus. We need to dwell in the wonder of what that possibility would feel like. We need to encourage one another to explore our relationship with the Holy Spirit and ask in our prayers to hear it’s rushing wind and to be lifted out of our spiritual ignorance. We need to request in prayer to meet and be guided by the Advocate or Comforter of whom Jesus speaks and to make our life purpose the goal of becoming the Christed version of ourselves that God and Jesus intended us to be.

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Where did I go?

It’s been a busy few months, with a trip to Iceland and a couple of visits to far-flung corners of the country, catching up with family. I’ve seen the death of  a 99 year old great-grandfather and the birth of a new neice.

Sadly, we also saw the untimely loss of a neighbour who also served at our local church. She was such a warm and vibrant lady who welcomed my family into the church and who I was looking forward to sharing discussions with about our spiritual paths. I put those conversations off and now I regret that.

With all of this, my attendance at church has been patchy to say the least and because writing doesn’t come easy to me in the way that it used to, I have lost motivation to update this blog. But as I sat listening to today’s sermon, gazing into the beautiful stained glass window that shows Christ seated in heaven, surrounded by seven Angels, an orb in his left hand and his right hand held in the gesture of benediction, I felt stirred to resume sharing my thoughts with the world, no matter how simplisitc or banal they may be.

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7th February 2016 – Transfiguration

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Today was another fascinating and uplifting visit to Church. Our Church is currently without a permanent vicar which means that we get a variety of stand-in vicars each with his or her own style. I suspect that these are retired vicars doing their bit to serve the institution. I particularly enjoyed listening to today’s vicar though as he was funny, enthusiastic and keen to impart the meaning of his sermon on us.

The New Testament reading was…

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

12 [n]Seeing then that we have such trust, we use great boldness of speech.

13 [o]And we are not as Moses, which put a veil upon his face, that the children of Israel should not look unto the [p]end of that which should be abolished.

14 Therefore their minds are hardened: for until this day remaineth the same covering untaken away in the reading of the old Testament, which veil in Christ is put away.

15 But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is laid over their hearts.

16 Nevertheless when their heart shall be turned to the Lord, the veil shall be taken away.

17 Now the [q]Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.

18 [r]But we all behold as in a mirror the glory of the Lord with open face, and are changed into the same image, from glory to glory, as by the Spirit of the Lord.

Perhaps I’ll come back to this reading at a later date, but I have to move on to the Gospel reading, which today came from…

Luke 9:28-43a

28 [a]And it came to pass about an eight days after those words, that he took Peter and John, and James, and went up into a mountain to pray.

29 And as he prayed, the fashion of his countenance was changed, and his garment was white and glistered.

30 And behold, two men talked with him, which were Moses and Elijah:

31 Which appeared in glory, and told of his[b]departing, which he should accomplish at Jerusalem.

32 But Peter and they that were with him, were heavy with sleep, and when they awoke, they saw his glory, and the two men standing with him.

33 And it came to pass, as they departed from him, Peter said unto Jesus, Master, it is good for us to be here: let us therefore make three tabernacles, one for thee, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah, and wist not what he said.

34 While he thus spake, there came a cloud and overshadowed them, and they feared when they were entering into the cloud.

35 And there came a voice out of the cloud, saying, This is that my beloved Son, hear him.

36 And when the voice was past, Jesus was found alone: and they kept it close, and told no man in [c]those days any of those things which they had seen.

37 ¶ [d]And it came to pass on the next day, as they came down from the mountain, much people met him.

38 And behold, a man of the company cried out, saying, Master, I beseech thee, behold my son: for he is all that I have.

39 And lo, a spirit taketh him, and suddenly he crieth, and he teareth him, that he foameth, and hardly departeth from him, when he hath [e]bruised him.

40 Now I have besought thy disciples to cast him out, but they could not.

41 Then Jesus answered and said, O generation faithless, and crooked, how long now shall I be with you, and suffer you? bring thy son hither.

42 And while he was yet coming, the devil rent him, and tore him: and Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, and healed the child, and delivered him to his father.

The vicar opened his sermon by saying, half in jest, that he hoped that the experience of the Church service would lead to at least some of the congregation leaving the Church with direct experience of themselves being transfigured! It got a chuckle from the three or four people who were actually listening but in me, it was dredging up the memory of possibly the most awesome out of body experience I have ever had.

It happened during the Easter weekend of 2009 when I was visiting my brother a few hundred miles away from where I live. The night of our arrival we bedded down on the floor of his lounge and I had fallen asleep whilst meditating. I awoke with vibrations and was catapulted out of my body into a brilliant white environment. The weirdest thing then happened (if it’s possible to get any weirder than your awareness leaving your body): I began to flicker between being an energetic copy of my normal physical being, to something quite different. I was still humanoid but not human. I was a white flame of divine ecstasy.

In front of me appeared a woman I know in my waking life, a woman who talks way too much, to the point of being overbearing in most situations. She was stood before me, but unaware of me and talking manically. Something in me spasmed and strings of light shot forth from my heart and the palms of my hand towards her.

This continued for a few moments before the energy dissipated and I was slung back to my body.

What had just happened? I had certainly been transformed during this experience, but was it also a transfiguration? Unfortunately, once back in my body, I was back to being the same old me!!

So, back to the Vicar’s sermon: I was listening intently, wondering what he was going to say about the possessed child. Unfortunately and half expectedly, he completely avoided this part of the Gospel – what a cop out! I was genuinely intrigued as to what he would say about the nature of possession or why Jesus was exasperated by the request. I have my own ideas which will have to wait for another day, but I will say that I think Jesus was suggesting that the strong in faith have the power to do this work themselves.

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Which is more important—the gold or the Temple that makes the gold sacred?

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My offerings to who?

During my first trip to Church a few weeks back, we received the warmest welcome and my son was enthusiastically signed up to the Sunday school register. I was also told that I would be given a box of envelopes in which we could put our weekly offerings and this was given to me on our second visit.

Now, these envelopes are all numbered and I have now been allocated a number, enabling the Church to monitor the level of my donations. That’s OK I suppose, I haven’t got too much of a problem with them monitoring my generosity (or otherwise).

What I do have a problem with is the text on the envelope, pictured above.

The money that I place in that envelope is money I’m donating to the Church I attend. It has nothing to do with God. For the Church to conflate the issue of it’s own funding with the faith of its congregation is not just disingenuous, but downright sly.

My offering to God is the way I live my inner and outer life.

I am certain in my heart that God couldn’t give two hoots about the content of those little envelopes. This deception angers me, but I needn’t say more because it appears I’m not alone in feeling this way:

Matthew 23

Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples,

[a]Saying, The Scribes and the Pharisees [b]sit in Moses’ seat.

[c]All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do: but after their works do not: for they say, and do not.

[d]For they bind heavy burdens, and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.

[e]All their works they do for to be seen of men: for they make their[f]phylacteries broad, and make long [g]the fringes of their garments,

And love the chief place at feasts, and to have the chief seats in the[h]assemblies,

And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, [i]Rabbi.

[j]But be not ye [k]called, Rabbi: for [l]one is your doctor, to wit, Christ, and all ye are brethren.

And call no man your [m]father upon the earth: for there is but one, your father which is in heaven.

10 Be not called [n]doctors: for one is your doctor, even Christ.

11 But he that is greatest among you, let him be your servant.

12 For whosoever [o]will exalt himself, shall be brought low: and whosoever will humble himself, shall be exalted.

13 [p]Woe therefore be unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, [q]hypocrites, because ye shut up the kingdom of heaven before men: for ye yourselves go not in, neither suffer ye them that would [r]enter, to come in.

14 [s]Woe be unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye devour widows’ houses, even [t]under a color of long prayers: wherefore ye shall receive the greater damnation.

15 Woe be unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye compass sea and[u]land to make one of your profession: and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell, than you yourselves.

16 Woe be unto you blind guides, which say, Whosoever sweareth by the Temple, it is nothing: but whosoever sweareth by the gold of the Temple, he[v]offendeth.

17 Ye fools and blind, Whether is greater, the gold, or the Temple that[w]sanctifieth the gold?

18 And whosoever sweareth by the altar, it is nothing: but whosoever sweareth by the offering that is upon it, offendeth.

19 Ye fools and blind, whether is greater, the offering, or the altar which sanctifieth the offering?

20 Whosoever therefore sweareth by the altar, sweareth by it, and by all things thereon.

21 And whosoever sweareth by the Temple, sweareth by it, and by him that dwelleth therein.

22 And he that sweareth by heaven, sweareth by the [x]throne of God, and by him that sitteth theron.

23 [y]Woe be to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye tithe mint, and anise, and cummin, and leave the weightier matters of the law, as judgment, and mercy and [z]fidelity. These ought ye to have done, and not to have left the other.

24 Ye blind guides, which strain out a gnat, and swallow a camel.

25 [aa]Woe be to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye make clean the utter side of the cup, and of the platter: but within they are full of bribery and excess.

26 Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside of the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

27 Woe be to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: for ye are like unto whited tombs, which appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and all filthiness.

28 So are ye also: for outward ye appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.

It’s also very interesting to note that in more recent translations of the text, the meaning of verse 23 is inverted, or at least restructured, to give clear justification to tithing.

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