Monday, 26 April 2010

Marathon Spirit

Many people think that marathons are not personally relevant. Sporty people engage in marathons; not for me. However, when taken into the realm of spirituality, the marathon theme can become very accessible.

The evening began in a familiar spot - the upstairs room at The Alibi pub in Hove. Inside, the projector screen displayed a loop of runners from the recent Brighton Marathon. Various bible passages were shown, beginning with 1 Corinthians 9 verse 24: "Don't you realize that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize? So run to win!" This message led us into a brief interview with two Brighton Marathon runners, Adam, and Catherine, concerning the question of "Why?" Why do people run marathons? What are the motivations? Various parallels were drawn between running a physical marathon and our spiritual journeys. Not only do we do it for ourselves and our own good, but sometimes we do it for others and their good, such as being sponsored by a charity.

The next question was "How?" 1 Corinthians 9 verses 25-27 addresses this: "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore, I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my boday and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." Research into physical training suggests that we must 1. Set a goal, 2. Stay motivated, 3. Vary our training, 4. Have proper nutrition, 5. Practice, and 6. Rest. Similarly, these points can be applied to our spiritual lives, and a worksheet that considered this information was passed out to everyone as a personal reflection on his or her own "spiritual training".

A clip from the movie, "Run Fat Boy Run" was shown which addressed "the wall". Everyone will hit a wall at some point in their spiritual lives, and we briefly considered how to deal with this. A recap of Beyond's events from the beginning of the year was done including Vistas, Drought , Refreshment, and Easter Saturday. All events describing parts of our journey that lead us up to the wall.

We recognized that there is a large community aspect to journeys, physical or spiritual. We need supportive people around us to keep us going. Hebrews 12 verses 1-5: "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our fath, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." With the support of others, we are kept going, and can make it through the difficult times more easily.

If you would like to donate to the charities of those runners who ran in the Brighton Marathon who are a part of the Beyond community, the information is below:

Adam Webb
Queen Alexandra Hospital

Claire Bradford
Chestnut Tree House of Childrens' Hospice

Amanda Tombs
Guide Dogs for the Blind

Our next event is part of the Brighton Fringe Festival. We are hosting speaker Peter Rollins, the author of How Not to Speak of God and The Orthodox Heretic at The Royal Sovereign (66 Preston Street, Brighton, BN1 2WB) on May 15th from 7:30pm.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Easter Saturday Event

On the third of April, we met in a very different venue from our regular pub format. The cellar in The Old Ship Hotel set the tone for an exploration of the empty space between death and resurrection. This was explored through a service which incorporated readings, music, symbolic action, and periods of relfection.

The evening progressed in stages, each set by a visual, with the first being the shadow of betrayal. The table was set as it was during the The Last supper when Jesus spoke of Judas' betrayal. A reading accompanied this which highlighted the scence between Jesus and Judas when Jesus explins that Judas will betray him. A candle was extinguished and a period of silence followed which was accompanied by music.

This foreshadowing led into a reading from Psalms "Because of all my enemies, I am the utter contempt of my neighbors; I am a dread to my friends -- those who see me on the street flee from me. I am forgotten by then as though I were dead; I have become like broken pottery." This tied into the feelings of Jesus while at Gethsemane, who was anguished. Again, a candle went out.

A reader came forward wearing a shirt stained with woman's lipstick, a modern representation of betrayal. "The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard." Another candle, gone.

A bowl of water and a towel was laid out. The reader spoke as he washed his hands: So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying "I am innocent of this man's blood; see to it yourselves." The fourth candle was extinguished.

After this, the audience saw a crown of thorns. Alongside this was a description of the humilition Jesus went through before he was cruicified. "But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our sin; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. He was oppressed and afflicted; yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." During this reading, nails were pounded into a cross int he middle of the room. This was by far the most powerful scene. Not only did the words connect, but the visual of nails being hammered into a cross accompanied by the auditory shock was very moving.

Finally, bread and wine vinegar was passed around a representation of one of Jesus' final experiences on the cross. The evening finished with these words "When Jesus had recived the wine he said 'It is finished.' Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom." The tablecloth in the cellar was removed and torn at these words. Darkness followed the absence of the last candle's light.