I have been challenged that 2 of my recent Facebook posts are contradictory, and the truth is that without nuance and reality they are, one was about being blown away by the way God has been working in my life over the last few months, the other indicated that I was having a bad mental health day yesterday. The truth is both of those are true, and one does not contradict the other, it merely reveals my humanity, and reveals the truth that throughout Lent and the whole Holy Week run up to Easter Day I have had wobbly days among the being blown away days, and sometimes those have been one and the same!
So, probably for me rather than for anyone else, I thought I would write a bit about what I have been experiencing. I do so to reclaim in many ways the often forgotten element of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral and that is Experience, which sits alongside Scripture, Tradition and Reason. Whilst it is questioned whether John Wesley himself ever applied the term to his own theological understanding, it has certainly been used by others in order to understand his thinking, and it is clear from his journals, and so his actions and reaction, that experience of God, of the Spirit within and around him was very important to Wesley.
I am not claiming to be Wesley ( I truly would not want to be), but I am working out for myself what the experiences of the last few months particularly have been about, and also to work through for myself a returning to acceptance of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit in my life through what I can only describe as charismatic experiences.
It has been a hard time in many ways, work has been challenging, and I have doubted and questioned my calling to ordained ministry, doubted and questioned myself in so many ways. I won’t unpack all of that here, and I suspect it will be ongoing for a while, perhaps it is simply life being life! Into this God stepped powerfully, it began with a challenge to engage with deep spiritual practices, some of which have certainly not been traditional, but they have been a seeking of the strength and presence of God, her love and her wisdom. That said some have been more conventional and I have been surprised to find myself seeking out charismatic worship in a particular context, where simply sitting in the presence of God and his people has been remarkable, I reflect that once Jesus called Lazarus from the tomb that he needed friends to unbind him! I feel a bit like Lazarus, coming blinking into the light, and I have certainly needed friends to help to unbind me, in some ways I am stumbling along tripping over grave clothes still, trailing them behind me.
So what have I rediscovered? I have rediscovered the sense of the power of the Holy Spirit at work in and through me, I have prayed more, sought more, sensed more, I have brought the so long neglected gift of speaking in tongues from my spiritual store house, and found it to be beautiful. I have seen differently, and there is no real way to explain that, other than leaving it out there. Add to all this, I know my preaching has changed, and there has been a lot of kneeling involved, I am literally being called to my knees!
What has all this to do with Easter, and how we proclaim and celebrate Easter, well for me it is about walking with Christ through the now and not quite yet, it is holding the hope of the resurrection with the incompleteness of creation and my own being, and while we have the words of Jesus echoing through our minds as he cried out it is finished ( more accurately completed) from the cross, the truth is that we are still being called from our tombs of doubt, despair, pain and unbelief, yet he is risen and walks gently with us, calling and drawing us into the great dance of life.
Easter reveals to us a possibility and a hope of glory to come, it calls us to a deeper truth that we are not our own and to a deep mystery that God is at work in us and in the world, breaking out and breaking through unexpectedly and calling us to see and join in. I find that very often the triumphalist language that appears in our Easter liturgies and hymns jars with me, it does not sit easy for a broken world, and often carries certain expectations and demands of behaviour that I cannot live up to or into. I can however live into hope, and I can say ( even if I whisper it) I know afresh Christ in me it the hope of glory, on my most awake days, and in my darkest days this remains true.
Will these experiences continue, I don’t know, I am not seeking them, but I am seeking God, my faith has changed, I think I have changed…..
For now I can only let God be God, s/he will still me on the hilltop and hold me in the valley, and gentle me with grace….
I end with the beginning words of the Methodist Covenant Prayers ( tweaked slightly) Loving God, help me to know, this day and every day, “I am not longer my own but yours“, and may all that, that means unfold in my life as I walk and work with you. Amen.