04 October 2015

TSSF Principles, Day 4

(4) When Saint Francis encouraged the formation of The Third Order he recognised that many are called to serve God in the spirit of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience in everyday life (rather than in a literal acceptance of these principles as in the vows of the Brothers and Sisters of the First and Second Orders). The Rule of The Third Order is intended to enable the duties and conditions of daily living to be carried out in this spirit.
The Principles speak of living in the spirit of poverty, chastity, and obedience in everyday life rather than literally.

I’m not convinced about this. I suspect Francis actually meant us to live these things as literally as possible given our station in life. It is not that poverty, chastity, and obedience can be taken as entirely metaphorical. But rather that we must ask how far we can live them while also fulfilling our everyday responsibilities.

A professional needs to dress in a certain way. A worker may well need reliable private transport or their own computer. What does poverty mean in this context?
What does chastity mean in a culture where sex has been trivialized and commodified? Is it merely a matter of abstinence? Or is it, rather, about the quality of our relationships, our commitment to the other, treating the other as a person rather than merely an object for our own gratification?

What does obedience mean in an age when respect for authority is seen as a quaint, possibly pathetic hangover from an earlier era?

Then again surely all Christians are called to these disciplines. So the the Franciscan way is not something extra so much as an articulation of the way we should already be living.

03 October 2015

TSSF Principles, Day 3

(3) Jesus calls those who would serve him to follow his example and choose for themselves the same path of renunciation and sacrifice. To those who hear and obey, he promises union with God. 
The object of the Society of Saint Francis is to build a community of those who accept Christ as their Lord and Master, and are dedicated to him in body and spirit. They surrender their lives to him and to the service of his people. The Third Order of the Society consists of those who, while following the ordinary professions of life, feel called to dedicate their lives under a definite discipline and vows. They may be female or male, married or single, ordained or lay.

The Franciscan way is a path of self-surrender and sacrifice, giving myself up to God and for others.

But what does ‘
self-surrender and sacrifice’ mean in practice? There’s a lot of historical baggage attached to those words, baggage that tempts us to think in terms of hair shirts, self-flagellation, and asceticism of all sorts. Small wonder that Christianity is often condemned as joyless and life-hating.

The truth, as Francis was at pains to point out, is the precise opposite of that. If Luther was right about thinking of sin as being turned in upon oneself, the self-surrender that the Franciscan way calls for is the painful, gradual, sacrificial uncurling of oneself and turning outwards towards others. So self-surrender is really about learning to put others’ interests before our own. And those others are not just the usual suspects (family, friends, like-minded individuals), but the real ‘others’ of our society: the lonely and the loners, the bereaved and the suffering, the strangers and aliens (the economic migrants as much as the ‘deserving’ refugees).

02 October 2015

TSSF Principles, Day 2

(2) In the example of his own sacrifice, Jesus reveals the secret of bearing fruit. In surrendering himself to death, he becomes the source of new life. Lifted from the earth on the cross, he draws all people to himself. Clinging to life causes life to decay; the life that is freely given is eternal.
We should not try to hang on to the present, the known, the safe, the routine. We only really live if we venture into the new, the unknown; if we are willing to experience something new and different. We need to get out of our comfort zone – and that includes meeting new people, particularly people outside the Church.

Clinging to life cause life to decay; the life that is freely given is eternal! This is true in so many ways. The life God wants us to live is an outgoing life. It is no coincidence that one of the classic definitions of sin is an existence that is incurvatus in se, turned in upon itself.

Francis followed Jesus in going out to those who lay beyond the boundaries of respectable society. We are called to follow them in reaching out, in giving our lives to those who are on the outside.

01 October 2015

TSSF Principles, Day 1

It’s October and Francistide will soon be upon us, so it seemed good to me to devote my blog this month to the Principles of the Third Order of the Society of St Francis (TSSF), which is the Anglican subdivision of the worldwide Franciscan family.

The basis of that which follows is the Rule of the Christa Seva Sangha at Poona. Its successor, the Christa Prema Seva Sangha, had as its English branch the Brotherhood of the Love of Christ, St. Ives, Huntingdonshire, and the latter, when it joined the Brotherhood of Saint Francis of Assisi, and so formed the Society of Saint Francis, transmitted the original Rule. This version was revised in August 2005. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version.
The Object
(1) Jesus said, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honour.’ (John 12.24–26)

The Principles begin with a quotation from the Gospels. This highlights the point that the Franciscan vocation is first and foremost about following Jesus.

The grain dies and falls into the earth in order to bear fruit. Only by dying to self can we learn to live for others. This is what Franciscan poverty is truly about.

21 September 2015

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (2)

A Church of Scotland prayer for peace in the Middle East:

God of justice, bless those who work for peace through justice. Strengthen their resolve in the face of seemingly endless violence. Guide the leaders of the people of the Middle East to know your will and to support a just peace for all of your children.
God of love, lifting up the holy land for all humankind, breathe love and compassion into our prayers with a desire for nothing other than peace: peace in our hearts, peace for all creation, and especially peace in the land that is called holy.

God of hope, we lift up the city of Jerusalem, distracted and divided, yet still filled with promise as all the cities of the world. Come again into our cities, places of worship, Upper Rooms and Gethsemanes, that we may be given sight to recognize you.

God of mercy, even as we long to understand that which is often beyond our comprehension, we lay before you the hearts, minds and bodies of all those suffering from conflict in Palestine and Israel and from the ongoing occupation. Shower upon all the people of the Holy Land the spirit of justice and reconciliation.

God of the nations, give to all our people the blessings of well-being, freedom, and harmony, and, above all things, give us faith in you that we may be strengthened to care for all those in need until the coming of your son, our Saviour and Lord.


20 September 2015

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem

Today is the beginning of the World Week for Peace in Palestine Israel.

The Jerusalem Prayer (prepared by Christian leaders in Jerusalem for use during the week):

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair.” (2 Corinthians 4.8)
We pray to our Heavenly Father in the name of Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Rescuer.
You, in your mighty works, O God, have sanctified this land and have made it holy. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus, this land has been set apart with a special calling. The continuing political conflict that scars this land and harms all its peoples is a scandal against Your will.
We lament the many forms of violence afflicting people in this land. We grieve that the barrier of separation has split Palestinian communities from one another and sharpened the divide between Palestinian and Israeli societies. This barrier has contributed nothing to justice, and less to peace.
We pray for comfort, for the strength to not lose heart. We pray that the wall and all similar walls will fall.. We believe that the Wall is a “momentary affliction … for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal” (2 Corinthians 4.16–18). We pray for reconciliation and for peace, as we commit to working for justice for all persons who live in this Holy Land.
As we observe this week with our sisters and brothers around the world, we ask for the strong comfort of the Holy Spirit for all who seek justice in this land. Inspire us to not be content with mere words, but to engage in acts of costly solidarity. Inspire us to be instruments of your peace, the workers of your will.
“For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us” (Ephesians 2.14)

19 August 2015

A Word annoyance resolved

I recently upgraded to Office 2013 and everything seemed OK at first. However, when I subsequently upgraded to Windows 10, Word 2013 started refusing to open files that had been emailed to me, which was a real nuisance since most of my work comes that way.

Clicking on the Help button in the error message led to scary stuff about possible corruption of the file I was trying to open. But why should everything I downloaded be corrupt, and why if that were the case was Word 2007 happy to open the same files?

Initially I worked round the problem by opening the files in Word 2007 and resaving them, which seemed to convince Word 2013 that they were OK. However, having dug about a bit, I have discovered that Word 2013 (combined with Windows 10?) has a new security precaution built in: it simply blocks all downloaded files!

To get round this on a file by file basis, you can go into File properties and manually unblock the file. But for me a better solution was to go into Trust Center (in Word options) and add my entire Documents folder and subfolders to Trusted locations. Problem solved.