Sunday, January 20, 2019

What Mean These Stones

All this talk of online church, I really don't see it as a new thing. 

Somewhere along the way the vision of the early church got lost. 

Whenever I read Acts I get the impression of a church family that lent on each other, a community so tightly linked that when one was unable to stand they were simply held up by those around them, not in some conscious way, rather imagine a row of people walking along with arms tightly linked, it is possible for one or two to actually take their feet off the ground and yet the whole line will still move forward together. 

In the case of the early church the person needing carrying varied from time to time sometimes you would hold someone else up, sometimes they would hold you.

I am a proud northerner and since a boy I have wondered the ancient land of Northumberland and in the church at Old Bewick, on Holy Island, at Aidan's field and Cuthbert's cave I somehow feel closer to God in these ancient ruined and sometimes neglected places, there I am able to place my head on Jesus chest and listen to his heartbeat. 

Often today it feels like the church has become so fragmented that those in that line unable to stand would simply be left to fall, a case of if you can't keep up then see ya!

I see in the work of Disability and Jesus and other emerging expressions of church, a real cry of the heart to restore that ancient path and become again that church that holds each other up. 

I see disabled and disenfranchised Christians striving to do this online. 

My friend John Skinner wrote this back in 1982 and I see it as a word of prophecy for where we are now. 

We are being called not to do something totally new but to rebuild the ancient paths using all the tools of our own age.

I see the rich heritage of Christianity in ancient Northumbria as having much to teach us here.

What Mean These Stones?
Land of my fathers,
how I long to return,
to touch thy earth,
and find again thy sacred paths,
well-walked with the Gospel of Peace,
veiled now in the shadow of mediocrity.

‘What mean these stones’
which beset thy coastline,
who in twisted agony cry out
in praise and supplication of Him
and the renewal of the faith
that bled to secure them there?

Yet we would walk again
thy sacred paths,
repair thy ancient ruins,
restore thy broken altars,
raise up the foundations
of many generations.

Hear this, you lands of the South
who hold many in captivity
by your empty words
and well-worn myths,
who neglect to see justice
for the poor, the widow,
the fatherless.

Look to the North -
for lo your Redeemer comes,
clothed in the poverty of the few
who dare to speak His name,
without vanity,
in a whisper,
lest the earth should tremble
Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord.

Poor of Yahweh, arise,
take up the ancient mantle
which has awaited your day;
clothe yourselves within its humility,
for you have been set
as a stumbling block for many.

-John T. Skinner (1985)

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