Sunday, 22 January 2023

connected

 As I write this, I am looking across to my son on sofa, with his dog. Yes, The Dog, of whom I have written before. He lies across my son's lap, one paw resting on Matthew's chest, his head on Matthew's knee, half his body connecting with his owner. 

Matthew meanwhile is on his phone. But The Dog is content;- he doesn't have to have Matthew's constant attention- he is satisfied with connection, in this case, physical. 

It speaks to me of our relationship with God. We don't crave his attention all the time- we are content to be connected. For us, it's prayer, the eucharist, worship, and the rest, but without the physical element of God here in bodily form. 

What image could you offer to encapsulate something of your connection with God? 


Sunday, 8 January 2023

Waiting

 When The Dog was with us over Christmas and New Year, I was struck by his alertness to his master's presence, his master's absence. Once, when the master ( our son ) was cleaning the car, The Dog positioned himself with front legs on the arms of the sofa, and so was able to see any movement out of the front windows towards the activity around the car. Or else put himself by the lounge door, sniffing for any tell-tale signs that the master might be just behind it. 

I do not claim that these actions are in any way unique, just that they find parallels in the gospel narratives. Through Advent we observed a period of waiting, expecting, culminating in the season of Christmas, when the promise of a Messiah, a Saviour for humankind comes about. The human equivalent of tail-wagging was much in evidence as Christmas dawned.

Here on the first Sunday of Epiphany, that waiting can be seen again, as Jesus manifests himself to the world in different ways. ,By that I mean that the waiting and expectation can now be up-close and personal, waiting, variously patiently and impatiently, for Jesus to reveal himself to us, alert to any sign he is near, he is with us. Yes, Immanuel, 'God with us'- with US, even me, even ME! What will be your equivalent of tail-wagging as the wait is over, and Jesus reveals himself to me, to you? How low are your expectations of God?

Sunday, 25 December 2022

Christmas iignored

 The crib scene was set out at one end of the coffee table, and the magi at the other, ready for them ( the magi) to move a few centimetres each day across the table, and arrive at the crib scene at Epiphany. 

Then the dogs arrived for Christmas, in company with our son. Mayhem ensued with waggy tails causing the magi to land on the floor a good metre away, and the crib scene now virtually hidden behind the cushions the dogs are not allowed to use,  all piled on the foot stool. The retrieved magi have become conflated with the crib scene; it's the only way to keep them safe. 

Thus a scene emerges which encapsulates Christmas in the minds of many, No distinction is made between Christmas and Epiphany, and the birth of Jesus is virtually hidden behind the piles of presents and food, never-mind the discarded boxes, ribbons and wrapping paper. 

Still, Christmas is a season, and not just today. There will be time after son and dogs have left, for the crib scene to be as it should be, out in the open, cushions replaced on the sofa, and the magi now a little closer than before the mayhem. Still time for the real heart of Christmas to be seen.   

Sunday, 11 December 2022

Advent

 I'm reading Diana Athill's evocation of her privileged childhood in Norfolk. ( She knew many of the great writers of the 20th century from her long career as literary editor at the publishers Andre Deutsch.)  She writes at one point of how she saw her grandparents' faith- ' .....much more like the conduct of people moved by common sense combined with an ideal of gentlemanly behaviour  than it did like the conduct of people  seeking communion with God .'

This came shortly after my morning devotions, and the thought the what we long for in Advent is the coming of the One who will enable us to be gloriously and fully human. As Irenaeus wrote- 'The glory of God is man fully alive;.'

The two viewpoints stand in stark contrast. One, which seems oh, so dated, so class-bound, so English, and the other so freeing, so universal, so adventuresome. 

I recognise that my own crabbed existence is not the same as that Athill describes, but it does direct my prayers to something wider, bigger, deeper, summed up in the Advent longing 'Come, Lord Jesus;.  

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Quiet

 I wonder how Jesus found it, coming back into crowds with their pressing needs, their inquisitiveness, their cynicism, their condemnation, after a period of quiet spent in prayer, alone. I ask this after the better part of four days on retreat, by myself last week, Coming home to company/talk/the daily round et al, has made me long at times for some of that quiet and silence I experienced on retreat. And prompts the speculation as to how Jesus found it. 

It is at best speculation; we'll never know the answer. Presumably he was able to meld the quiet and the crowd together, given his mission, his person, his being. 

For me, more difficult. I go back to 'In quietness and confidence shall be your strength'. Strength to face the hurly-burly of daily life. And bring a quiet soul into that hurly burly.   


Sunday, 6 November 2022

dogginess

 There's an unfortunate dogginess to the house at the moment as we look after two dogs- a black, and a honey-coloured Labrador. The carpets need extra vacuuming, the air needs spraying, or scented candles need burning, to keep the all-pervading smell of Labrador at bay, keep the shedding of dog-hairs under control. 

Do we all leave some scent behind, of joy or something more noxious? Something shed from ourselves, a blessing, or something irritating? I guess we do, and the dogs are sensitising me to it, in a house not used to doggy smells, nor dog-hairs everywhere. 

There is a verse somewhere in 2 Corinthians, I think, which says we are a sweet-smelling savour to God. We are the aroma of Christ. Well, that's far from what many people experience of Christians in these polarised days, where the 'in crowd' demonises the 'out crowd'. No sweet aroma there, or very little of it. If more grace were evident- and I'm talking to myself here- maybe the aroma would be sweeter, the atmosphere more breathable, liveable. Lord, have mercy, 

Sunday, 23 October 2022

Parties

 Should a party raise anxiety for the host? Ideally, no, it should be a carefree occasion for all to enjoy the food, the drink, the company, the ambience. But there's always the niggle- 'is there enough food?' why didn't John and Fiona turn up?' 'is it warm enough?'..........

Presumably this was part of the context which motivated Martha to ask Jesus to berate her sister Mary into helping with the hospitality (perhaps not a party) when Jesus and his followers came one day. She was not alone in that anxiety- it was one I shared earlier this week when Mary and I hosted a meal for twenty-some friends in celebration of our golden wedding anniversary.  

Jewish views of heaven all seem to centre around food, feasting, fellowship- a good time had by all, or at least, by all the righteous (even in this instance a word to beware of). God as the host. Presumably, in his perfection, without anxiety that all was as it should be. 

Well, I look forward to that, if only for the awe-inspiring spectacle of God's perfect enjoyment of it all. Now that will be something to see!