Cafe church went ok yesterday - no technical hitches and we stuck pretty well to time. It was demanding and I think it took a lot of us quite a bit of effort and time to get into it and some didn't - though judging by participation in the zone time, I'd say lots of people were sufficiently touched by something to want to respond.
As promised, here's my closing monologue on the link between Paul Simon's Surprise and Romans 8:
'How can you live in the North east? A plea for a warring world to live together in peace, yet acknowledging that we wear our father’s old coat, we cling to the culture that made us, the language that shapes us, the gods that crave our allegiance...
So let’s abandon god altogether and watch the fourth of July fireworks – that beautiful image of being so small in vastness of space:
We watched the fireworks 'til they were fireflies.
Followed a path of stars over the endless skies.
This is something that haunts the album – but not as much as God does.
Who’s going to love us, he sings on outrageous
Who's gonna love you when your looks are gone?
Like he waters the flowers on your window sill.
And one thing he doesn’t believe is that
…a heart can be filled to the brim
Then vanish like mist as though life were a whim
And in war – when we’re overwhelmed by our inability to live together because we’re so prone to tear ourselves apart as families as much as nations – we wrap ourselves in prayer:
when the wounds are deep enough,
and it's all that we can bear,
We wrap ourselves in prayer
There’s an urgency about this praying that’s absent from the calm, private conversations we hold with our gods when we’re at peace. In war – as the fires come – we join in prayer in every language for all the world’s families scattered and broken…
And suddenly we’re in Romans 8, groaning with the groaning world, agnostics united in not knowing what to say but knowing someone is there in the depth of our agony and inability to articulate – and he’s groaning/she’s groaning in labour as in the shadows and the convulsions of creation, a new world takes shape.
And we’re invited to participate in its creation.
At its most basic it is – as Paul Simon sings on Everything about it is a love song –
But if I ever get back to the twentieth century
Guess I'll have to pay off some debts
Open the book of my vanishing memory
With its catalogue of regrets
Stand up for the deeds I did
And those I didn't do
Sit down, shut up, think about God
And wait for the hour of my rescue
And at its most wonderful, it’s God’s children, his heirs, flexing their muscles and playing their small part in the redemption of the world he loved so much he absorbed its agony and anguish on the cross to redeem it
And our response is….?'