January 2018

January 2018
"I will go before you and make the crooked places straight"
Isaiah 45.2 MEV

The New Year - a time of looking back and forwards simultaneously, like Janus: in ancient Roman religion and myth, he was the god of beginnings, of transitions, of doorways and passages, looking simultaneously both to the future and to the past.

The prophets continually look back to learn lessons from the past; they expose the tendency of the present; and they declare what God is about to do. In our monthly Sayings, we often use Words from Isaiah as he reveals the struggle of the Children of Israel through the wilderness times; the times of loss of faith and wandering from God's way; and then the calls of hope with which he drags them back to God. Isaiah had a vision of God which he could communicate like no one else - an ability to represent the power and depth of God's love, and the glory of what God will do for his faithful people.

At this time we tend to look forward, into the future, wondering what the year holds for us as individuals, for our country and for the world. Our imaginings in all of these can be worse than the reality, when it comes, but they can still be worrying and alarming as we ponder the unknown. In preparation for the times of silence in our contemplative prayer, we begin with a time of recollection, seeking understanding of the Saying's context and origin; then we turn to its relevance to ourselves and our own lives: we allow the Spirit to speak into our minds and hearts, to be spoken to us at that moment, in the silence, as we come to prayer. Finally, we use the Saying in intercession, looking beyond ourselves in time and place to the needs of others. It is a kind of past...present...future time of being with God.

We can 'listen' with all our faculties: perhaps we allow ourselves to have an image of God going before us, walking steadily, leading us to the place where he wants us to be, with him. We follow: perhaps round sharp bends where we feel we have momentarily lost sight of him or over awkward humps where the going is bumpy. We keep our eyes on him, putting one foot in front of the other... and so each step of the way becomes achievable: the crooked becomes straight.