Saturday, 13 August 2022

Dog-sitting

 We are looking after our son's dogs- Blake, a black Labrador, content and easy, and his daughter Parker, golden and nervous. She chatters all day in short whiny bursts. What has amused us most about her is the discovery of herself, or rather. of another dog, in her reflection in the tv screen. She cannot understand it. Staring back at herself, dimly, from the black screen is this other, who is not in this room, I will not attempt to say what goes on in her mind- if she has one. 

Through a glass, darkly; a phrase of St Paul as he writes to the brethren in Corinth, taking the metaphor of a Greek mirror, probably made of silver, or some silvery metal, reflecting very imperfectly the image of the one who looked into it. So it is with our present life- we see dimly what in God's good and eternal time we shall shall see and know and experience 'face to face'. . 

The dogs are alert, on watch, when they remember that their master is away, and will be back. Blake has found a perch on the settee where he can stand and look out of the window for signs of the car returning, when all shall be very waggy tails, whimpered joy. They long for the 'face to face'. 

Is it too much to echo their behaviour in the life of faith, with a longing expressed as 'Even so, come Lord Jesus'? 

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Celebration

Mary and I celebrated, quietly, our Golden Wedding earlier this week. Cards arrived, and we have received two plants for the garden, but we had sought neither- after fifty years of marriage, what does one need?  We were content to be thankful, visit York for the day, and return home tired. Bur just to prove we are not stingey old curmudgeons, there will be family and then friends' celebrations later. 

It is a rarity in today's world to mark a 50th wedding anniversary. I'm not boasting here, just stating a fact. I hope we continue for a good many years to come.  Any marriage which survives this long will have been through several phases, and ours is no different. We are not the same people as in 1972.

I'm reminded of my relationship with God. Of long duration, but changed on my side many times over, as my perception of God changed. marked by stickability on God's part; love, and variously desperation and lack of other credible alternatives on mine. 

Still, it's lasted. Both marriage and faith have lasted. Just stating a fact. Above all, the grace of God, and of Mary to last out with such unpromising material as I am.    

Saturday, 30 July 2022

watching

 I sat for three hours in a reception area at St. James, Hospital, Leeds (aka 'Jimmy's) while my son had treatment on his eyes earlier this week . It gave me much opportunity to people watch. The anxious, the talkative, the lost, the eccentric (an elderly man who filled his wheeled grocery bag with packets of crisps), the purposeful, the hurting;- all human life was there- red and yellow, black and white as the none-too subtle Sunday-school song has it. 

And yes, they are precious in his (that is, Jesus) sight, to continue that song, although I found myself wondering, after the book I had brought was finished, and I resorted to people watching, what barriers these precious ones had found in life, who had put them in an 'out crowd'  who had welcomed them, if at all, into an 'in-crowd', The shabbily-dressed old man who so carefully laid out on a seat some yards from me the eighteen on so packets of salt-and-vinegar crisps; who would give him a wide berth in daily life?

How good we are at assumptions! -when within the kingdom, the only one we need is 'all are precious in his sight'. The over-dramatised colours-red and yellow, black and white- can be erased after that. 

Saturday, 23 July 2022

Heat

 We survived the heat of the early part of the week- the thermometer in the warmest part of the garden went off the scale, but the likelihood in the open was about 39 degrees. The hart in psalm 42 was not alone in seeking the solace of a cooling stream- or at least an extra shower or two, all set to much cooler than normal. 

The park opposite was devoid of kids playing; the gardens we overlook at the back were empty. Everyone seemed to seek such cool as may be found inside, and truth to tell, there wasn't much of that. Climate change came with a vengeance. 

The prognostications on several fronts- climate change, cost of living, the war in Ukraine, the austerity which will have to come to pay for the government's profligacy- is not good. 300 new clients every day turn up at the UK's food banks. Fuel bills are likely to rise to £3000+ in the autumn. Prayer seems an inadequate response; I bang on about 'the common good' at all and every opportunity, but the common good does have a special resonance at this time.

'We must all hang together, or, most assuredly, we shall all hang separately.', as Benjamin Franklin said- although the likelihood is that the poor will be hung out to dry, and will certainly feel the heat, before the rich begin to suffer. This is the way of the world, although not of the kingdom of God. I wonder which way we shall choose? 

Saturday, 16 July 2022

water

 Coming over the Pennines some weeks ago on our way back home from holiday, I was shocked at the low levels in the reservoirs high in the hills. The situation will be worse now, as the dry weather continues, and our profligacy with water continues. Water rationing is being mentioned. 

I was reminded of this again on Friday, when traffic queues in York near the hospital were caused by a burst water main. It gushed forth in force; traffic sprayed the pavement as in a heavy downpour.  Water is a finite resource- there will be suffering somewhere as a result of this leakage. 

A finite resource, and precious. Such a contrast to the infinite springs of water promised to the faithful, welling up inside us, the gift of the well-spring of life himself. We often stumble around in parched or drought mode, failing to see the reservoir at hand, failing to turn some spiritual tap to fresh supplies, and wonder at our ineffectiveness. 

St Isaac the Syrian imagined the believer swimming, diving, in an infinite sea of grace, diving deep for God's pearls. No shortage of pearls, no shortage of water, no shortage of grace. Divers wanted.      

Saturday, 9 July 2022

Neighbour

 'Who is my neighbour?' asks the lawyer of Jesus in the gospel. Perhaps part of the sub-text here is 'I know the answer to this- and I'm quite satisfied with my relationships with my neighbours, thank you'. Ah yes, the tightly drawn circle with well-defined boundaries. Don't we love them? we know where we stand!

The lawyer has a reluctance to name the one who showed mercy to the stupid man who travelled alone on that bandit-ridden road between Jerusalem and Jericho. 'Who is the neighbour?'  'The one who showed mercy'. he replies to Jesus. Subtext- 'the damned Samaritan'. 

An invitation, almost a command, to widen the tightly drawn circle of those included under the heading 'neighbour'. That's how we may read the parable of the good Samaritan. Where are the lines in the sand drawn this morning, which we are being invited to cross. the circles we must widen?

This is not new, but it's always a question worth asking, always a question worth answering. 

Saturday, 2 July 2022

Illusion

 The last time I was with the man standing before me making pennies disappear, was when he sawed me in half. That was at the celebration party for Tockwith church's 150th anniversary.  Tonight (well, Friday actually, as we party our way down the Ouse in York )  we're just as amazed and delighted at his skill, just as wondering 'how does he do that?' as he works his way round the tables with less exalted material than a box and a saw; pennies, cards, a pen. small oranges. 

Illusion and reality- finding our way though life's maze with a degree of wisdom and common sense keeping our feet on the ground whilst our heads are in the clouds. That has something of reality about it;  a  life-long task, distinguishing between life's illusions and life's realities. Like many, I find it hard to understand why large portions of the American church seem to have opted for the illusion that The Orange One is some sort of divinely appointed presence. And why our own C of E deals in so much management-speak, rather than prayer. 

Easy to say, easy to see- less easy to admit to one's own propensity for illusion. The prejudice, the false values, the unrealities, the false gods we deal with. But somehow I'm drawn back to the person of Jesus, what he said, what he espoused, as the touchstone for reality. Reality found in the fulness of a person's life, and not just in ideas. Something anchored to earth, whilst coming from the eternal. As I said, keeping feet on the ground whilst the head is in the clouds.