Saturday, 27 April 2019

That was then...

There are recipe books you buy, and books, or files, of recipes you compile. I was looking through the file of collected recipes earlier this week, and realised how much it reflected the garden we previously fought with ( it was a tad large to manage ) at the vicarage before retirement. Amongst the easier parts of that garden was a large rhubarb patch. Consequently the file contains recipes for dozens of things which can be made with rhubarb; all sorts of jams and puddings and drinks, and even a soup. Bottled, frozen, stewed; you name it, we did it.

I did bring a small crown to the house we now live in, where the garden is much smaller, and the need for a large patch of it given over to rhubarb is much diminished. And the plant has taken time to thrive. All of which places our rhubarb enterprises in the 'that was then, this is now' phase. The recipe file can be thinned out; much of the rhubarb stuff can go.

We move on. Faith moves on. Some folk outgrow a childhood faith, but fail to develop and adult one. I can see much 'that was then, but this is now' in my own faith, and hope it presently reflects something more suited to the needs and conditions of now, something more adult, mature, realistic. It has had the corners knocked off, is more at ease with questions than answers, is prepared to live in wisdom rather than knowledge .I cannot say that the faith- like the recipe file- has thinned out. Rather it has been enriched, filled out, and God fills the horizon. And this is riches indeed.      

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Maundy Thursday

It's Maundy Thursday today, the day when if at no other time, we think of the role of servants, and the imperative to serve in our faith. This is brought to mind not only because of the gospel reading for today- Jesus taking a towel and a basin of water, and washing his disciples' feet- but because twenty years ago today I set of with five others from our then church, to deliver two wagon loads of aid to a children's hospice in eastern Romania, in those desperate days after the revolution when the horror pictures were still so fresh in the memory. (The hospice had been founded by an English priest, and staffed by English nurses, so conditions there were mercifully good, but it depended on donations from the UK).
And this memory sparked others, of instances of mercy and servanthood I have known in churches I have been involved with. Nothing grand, but all worthwhile. Nothing which hit the headlines, but which made some appreciable difference to those who were served. Hosting Chinese families who were studying in the UK, so they had a week's holiday by the sea; promoting 'Operation Christmas Child'- shoeboxes of goodies for kids who would not otherwise have presents; endless coffee mornings for good causes; building an orphanage in western Kenya; sponsoring a child's education in Ethiopia; the list goes on.
The essence of being a servants is that one is not noticed. None of these instances- and they are replicated in countless numbers in churches and other centres of goodwill throughout the land- will be remembered in ten or twenty years' time, except possibly by the recipients, but that is not the point. In as much as we did it for the least of our brethren, we did it for God. Not in hope of reward, but mimicking the Servant Lord we follow on Maundy Thursday.  

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Taken by surprise

Funny how when stuff 'arrives' it is never as I imagined it. Could be a parcel from Amazon, or an anticipated event, the colour in a tin of new bought paint as it's applied to the wall- anything, really; and it's never quite as imagined. Sometimes that means some disappointment, sometimes an unlooked-for sense of satisfaction. Whatever, it demonstrates a gap in comprehension/understanding/application- or much else besides. And, that life is full of surprises.

My experience of God is like that; what comes is not what was quite expected, and I'm thankful. Did I ever think I would have opportunity to experience church life in rural Kenya and in ex-pat Cyprus the way I have done and continue to do? Would I have chosen these;? I suspect my fantasy 'stuff' would not have run to these destinations. I could name heaps of other experiences all tending to surprise.

'God of surprises; is a book-title, but also a reality of life. And, as I say, I am thankful. Firstly that those surprises have shown God to be kind and beneficent, and that being so, the surprises have made for my welfare and wholeness, and not my destruction.

I wonder what's round the next corner? Whatever it is, it will be something of a surprise that I could not have fully imagined, and it will be good. To take a verse from the good book totally out of context; 'Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift'...….

Saturday, 6 April 2019

The railway near here

There are two level crossings in our village; the Selby to Leeds railway line cuts across the main road linking those two places which passes through the village; and the line crosses the stress-free back-road to York. More times than enough I have to stop at one of these crossings for one, two- and one time three- trains to cross. It must have been even busier when the now abandoned line just east of the main road crossing gates was in use.

The course of this now abandoned line- a short one linking the east-west Selby-Leeds line with the north-south East Coast Main Line- can be seen at several points from roads round here. Variously now a farm track, obliterated as it is built over by houses; and a feature in a field marked by a raised alignment or trees, it bears no resemblance to what would have been a well-maintained, and presumably vital part of the rail network. It invites nostalgia for what once was.

But it also invites reflection on the 'change and decay' that can come upon us. Change is inevitable, but decay is not. And yet I see in many of my contemporaries who embraced the faith ardently in former days, an abandonment of what was once vital. Sometimes, like an  overgrown railway cutting, it is hard to discern what was once there. My own faith is much changed and developed, and deepened and (I  pray) affirming of others, since its early days. This has been a process where God has remained vital to me, and the landscape round that has been pruned, sown, flattened, bulldozed, and much more, but has still been connected to God. I would not want it overgrown and abandoned, something others would wax nostalgic about, but robbed of all context and content to what it was.