Saturday, 27 October 2018

The coming holy season

I'm old enough to remember a time when Hallowe'en didn't exist. That is to say, it was a date in the calendar, and that was all. Nothing to party about or celebrate. That was before it became a mega-marketing opportunity-a drive by the market to shift all sorts of single-use tat, before the buyers bin it on November 1st, and the shops fill up with more stuff (tat?) , this time for Christmas.
The most ironic thing I've seen about Hallowe'en is the supermarket signs exhorting punters to have a 'Happy Hallowe'en'. Come on! It's about ghosts and demons, restless spirits and spooky stuff. Happy?
I don't think so. OK, it's all been nicely domesticated so that kids go out in the dark and expect a handful of sweets when they knock on the door, but somehow this doesn't square with its pagan origins, and its appropriation into the Christian season of remembering the saints and martyrs (All Saints Day) and all holy souls (All Souls Day).
For the faithful, this is a time of remembrance, thankful for all those witnesses to Christ who have illuminated the way of the cross for us; and prayerful,as the memory of holy souls impacts on us. Hallowe'en in the Christian tradition is a time of vigil and fasting.
The only point of contact between the market version and the faith version is that we are more aware of the life beyond, the supernatural realm. Whether hell or heaven draws near depends on whether your belief is in what is pushed via the supermarkets, or in the Jesus who proclaimed himself the light of the world.

Saturday, 20 October 2018


I wonder often, where the balance lies for folk between entitlement and thankfulness. As I walk along the street, I imagine that most folks' faces are in repose, and if this is so, most faces seem pretty miserable. Few smiles, few signs of joy, of being thankful to be alive. I often wonder what mine looks like to those coming towards me.
A sense of entitlement to 'stuff ', large or small, leads, to my mind at least, to a fine and accurate personal accounting system, to ensure that one has all one is 'entitled' to. As often as not, when I have indulged in this, the account falls short, leading to a grudge mentality, a sense of unfairness, far removed from any joy or thankfulness at what life has offered me.

Of course life is unfair! The grace one needs is to face that fact, be thankful for what one has, seek to be generous with what life offers. I have come back with deep appreciation to the words of the General Thanksgiving, found in the Book of Common Prayer. I learned it as a teenager, and it has never really gone away, but recently has found a regular place in my prayers. 'We...give thee humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and lovingkindness to us and to all..... but above all for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ, for the means of grace and for the hope of glory.' It goes on in equally beautiful phrases. Goodness, lovingkindness, inestimable love, means of grace, hope of glory. These are the antidotes to entitlement, and I hope (by that offer of grace the prayer makes extant) to have my life moulded to thankfulness. May it be so. And for us all.  

Saturday, 13 October 2018

I sat entranced for a good twenty minutes yesterday morning, just looking at the sky. A huge drama unfolded, as thin, grey storm clouds surged north-eastwards in the high winds, while higher clouds turned pink to apricot to gold, to silver, and above them, the clearest blue.
'The heavens declare the glory of God' says the psalmist, and never was it more evident. For many, beauty, majesty, drama in the landscape is their link to God, and while I wouldn't decry that, it leaves unsaid what kind of God this might be, given also the terror and destruction of, say, a tsunami, a hurricane, such as we have witnessed in recent days.

For me, as for Christians everywhere, God is most clearly seen in Jesus; a 'photograph of God' as he has been called. Willing to take on human form, be cursed, and all that we know of him from the gospels. There is beauty, majesty, drama in the story, and terror too, but it holds together in the resurrection, where terror, destruction, cursing and evil are overcome, and the drama of new life opens untold possibilities for good.

The resurrection goes on; today and everyday I shall experience new life and possibility with God's grace to uphold me, the life of Jesus to sustain me. May this be yours also.  

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Letting go and letting God

The course I have helped with for the last several years on 'Spiritual Direction' began with a new intake on Friday . When the applications came in, I was one of those who thought 'help!' and directed that prayer Godward. The applicants all appeared on paper so competent, so experienced in so many directions, that I realised I had very little to offer. What was I thinking, standing up there at the front welcoming this eager group to a two year journey, when they all could - on paper, and probably otherwise as well- beat me into a cocked hat.

I will not be alone on my feelings of inadequacy. It happens to us all. My five loaves and two fishes of experience are very little, but I can put it in the service of God, and like the lad in the gospel story, trust that God will somehow use it. My experience, my trust ( both small, but offered with good intentions ) and those of my fellow course-leaders,  may, if the track record of past courses is anything to go by, be used by God to lead folk into new avenues of service, discovery of self and discovery of God.

Now what could be more exciting than that?