July 2022 – Contemplative Prayer

One of my predecessors, the Rev’d Coulson, founded the school of contemplative prayer which he ran from a prayer cell in the basement of the old Rectory in Stansted. When I first came here some of the older parishioners had clearly been positively impacted by his practice of being silent in prayer and meditation before God. He was very strict about silence in the church, before, during and after worship as people were not permitted to talk or chat at all in the church building. I remember one of his parishoners telling me that she saw herself as one of ‘the quiet of the land’ and she understood that her vocation was to pray in silence. This contemplative legacy was a very good thing which I didn’t really appreciate at the time but as I have continued in the spiritual life I have come to value this important tradition within the church. Like most of us who have been pursuing spiritual growth, I too have tried many ways and methods as I have sought to make prayer central to my life.
Getting to this point has been quite a journey as I have lived through more than a few seasons when I have found it difficult to pray at all. As with my contemplative predecessors, I have come to a place in prayer where I don’t say very much but focus more on what the Lord might be saying to me. I suppose you could call it listening prayer as much as contemplative prayer, but the process is much the same. Contemplative Prayer for me is not about emptying the mind, rather it is about engaging in the process of seeking to still my mind before God. It’s never quite the same from day to day as sometimes it seems easy but on other days, I find it almost impossible.
Some days I awake conscious of the Lord’s presence but on a normal day its more of a cold start and that involves work, in self-examination, confession, spiritual reading, and waiting on Him in stillness and silence. I usually conclude my prayers with a few set prayers that I have committed to memory because they remind me to seek and to do the will of God in all the affairs of the day. I don’t believe in formulas when it comes to prayer as for me it is a relational practice because God is my friend as well as my boss. My day is always lacking and often falls well below par if I am prevented from spending the beginning of the day with God.

Rev. Dr Christopher Noble – Rector
St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo

April 2021 God is Alive!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a powerful reminder that God is not dead. God is alive!

For many of us the great turning point in life was when we came to a realisation that God really is alive and that we can get to know him. The total Easter message is that God is for us and that God is with us. God has not abandoned us on this planet and we are not alone in the universe.

The fact that God not only exists but is alive has profound implications for our lives and for the world. God has a will and he is actively involved in all of life here on earth. He is not an aloof or distant heavenly parent but fully engaged in the life of his creation and his creatures including us.

As an atheist I didn’t believe in any God or life beyond the grave. This world was my total reality and I rejected my inherited religion of cultural Christianity. That was until one day when I had a transformative experience of a power greater than myself. I knew from that point on that that there was a higher power and it wasn’t long before I was able to name him as God.

That was when the reality of God came alive for me. Of course, God wasn’t dead just because I didn’t believe in him. But he was dead to me in the sense that I had ruled him out of my life so that I could get on and live the way I wanted to. I am glad that God enabled me to come out of that place of unbelief and defiance. That is the grace of God in action reaching into our so-called private worlds and bringing us out into a spacious place where we can receive his light and his love.

On Good Friday this world tried to kill God. They crucified him, dead and buried but on the third day he rose again from the dead and he is alive. Jesus is alive and through our faith in him we too can be raised from the dead, spiritually in the present and physically in the future.

Rev. Dr. Christopher Noble – Rector
St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo

February 2021 – The Illusion of Control

I used to have a job selling reinsurance contracts for mobile home parks in the hurricane zones of Florida. What I learned from this is that nothing is under control. You think you have got everything sorted out with the premiums correctly adjusted to the risk and the contracts all ready to be signed and then you get three hurricanes in a row. Just when everything seemed to be under control it all fell apart and you had to start all over again.

It’s similar to the Covid-19 crisis that we are in. It is teaching us some very painfull lessons about the illusion of control. We think we are in control as we get certain systems in place with their appropriate procedures and measures. But sometimes, no matter how sophisticated our plans are, they just don’t ‘cut it’ and things get out of our control.

This sense of control is often just an illusion that hides the fact that we are not as ‘in control’ as we thought we were. Obviously, the control that we do have gives us a sense of security and safety, which is important, but it only goes so far. There are many things that are completely outside of our control and of course health, and life, and death, are often in those categories. So, we have to find a way through life that can deal with the facts and be able to process the reality that everything is not under our control. We have to learn to ‘let go’ of wanting to control the outcome of many things or we drive ourselves mad.

The ‘wisdom’ writers in the Bible were onto this. The writer of Ecclesiastes goes as far as to say that we can’t really control anything because life is too unpredictable. He describes life as ‘Hevel’, meaning that it is like a vapour or smoke that can look solid but is just a mist. Like smoke, life can be confusing, disorientating and uncontrollable. He says that since we can’t control our lives we need to hold on to life with open hands and learn to control the one thing we can, which is our attitude towards the present moment. This is the challenge that we have in front of us as we go through this time of uncertainty and chaos.

 

Rev Dr Christopher Noble – Rector

St Mary’s Stansted with Fairseat and Vigo