Why do we make the Bible boring? The Church has, somehow or other, made the very word, Bible, sound heavily, moralistically dull. Cold porridge, cold showers and a good dose of the Bible. Many who might cheerfully read a Buddhist text before bed, run screaming from this fusty, outdated thing called, 'the Bible'. But when we take the time to read the Bible, to pray with the Bible, it comes alive with a beauty and a power and richness which always surprises and startles. Just a few days ago at Morning Prayer (9:15am at St Anne's) we were listening to Psalm 66. In it is this verse, 'we went through fire and water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place' (12). That verse, and the whole Psalm which is miracle of struggle and expansion, pain and joy, was like discovering new treasure. Nothing makes the Bible less exciting than a Church course which says, Hey, the Bible is great! But it is worth remembering that the Bible offers us spiritual riches, insights, challenges, delights, myths, and beauties that take us beyond words. It is a living word.
I have been reading and praying over Meister Eckhart's sermons these last few months. Meister Eckhart was a medieval German mystical theologian, most famous for an extraordinary series of sermons that speak in luminous, and sometimes shocking, language about our intimate union with God. Every time I read a sermon by Eckhart, a new door seems to be opened into God's mystery. People like Eckhart tend to get into trouble. In his time, he was investigated by the Inquisition because it was thought he spoke too boldly of our secret union with God. Eckhart will not be to everybody's taste but what is important is that we each of us find friends of God who help us draw closer to God's intimate, living reality in our own lives, rather than the rumour or myth of 'God'. A friend of God is a writer who has somehow been touched by God and through their writing helps us realise that we too can be touched by the divine. There are many great writers and mystics out there to draw inspiration from: Julian of Norwich, or Thomas Merton, or Sister Wendy Beckett. Find a person who writes of God with words of fire. Let their passion become your passion. Our Church needs mystics like the earth needs rain. Women and men who experience God as a living presence rather than as a distant (mythical) entity.
One of the joys of St Anne's are our prayer gatherings. From Monday to Friday we have morning prayer (9:15am). There is a real delight in gathering and listening to the Bible (see above) and praying together. On Tuesdays we have silent prayer (7pm). This is a half hour of silence, followed by a reading. This gathering has grown, and it is now about 11 to 12 people. Each time of silence is different. Each time of silence is a time to encounter the God who is at the heart of who we are. A church, above all else, is a house of prayer. Rather like the Bible, the word prayer has come to mean something dreary; a long list of needs and wants. In its simplest understanding prayer is our seeking union with God; indeed prayer is sometimes like a homecoming. We start off thinking God is somewhere far away, then we find God is within us.
Our extension is nearing completion. We await its great unveiling with nervous anticipation. We give thanks to all the people who have worked so creatively on this project. St Anne's is now a church which is open Mon-Sat. People come in and explore its many wonders and mysteries. The extension will be a great development of our building and will make St Anne's an even more attractive place of worship.