Saturday, 30 November 2019

Paying the price

More than twenty hours on planes, and a similar amount of time in cars on increasingly awful roads, plus a full-on schedule- all in the last ten days or so- have left me with an ability to fall asleep at the drop of a hat. And the first twinges of sciatica, noted before I left for Kenya, have blossomed ( helped by sitting so long in planes and cars) into something painful, which requires painkillers and a therapist.
Ah yes, the joys of travel! Or not, as here. I'm paying the price of increasing age, tired after a hectic trip, reminded that I am no longer twenty nine, and that occasions like this recent trip bring home to me, in spite of enthusiasm for the enterprise and its tasks, that there is a price to pay.

That pithy saying 'there's no such thing as a free lunch' still remains true. As I look back over the weeks of the kingdom season I am reminded of the benefits I enjoy today at the hands, the work, the prayers, the sacrifice, of others. Remembrance Day, All Saints, the feast of Christ the King- all bring home to me that my present freedom to live in material peace and security was at cost to others. Supremely in the kingship of One who reigns from the cross.

'It was for freedom that Christ has set us free' wrote St Paul to the small band of Christians in Galatia, followers of The Way in an ocean of paganism. It was their remembrance of Who had paid the price for that freedom which made it actual and real, when so many, in their daily lives, were subject to masters who many not treat them with any degree of kindness or consideration, or freedom of any sort. Those early Christians rejoiced in their essential freedom, thankful for a price paid, and the consequences it had for them, and for the world.   

Saturday, 16 November 2019

They also serve

I'm constantly surprised by how much of life is taken up in preparing, or in waiting for an event, and then in the stuff that needs to be done after the event- the unpacking/washing/ironing, say, after going away. The stuff before and the stuff afterwards can seem to take up twice as much time as the event itself.
And yet it's the event itself we focus on- the holiday! the meal! the meeting! But it's the preparation and the feedback that makes it what it is.

Which probably helps to explain why we have two seasons of preparation in the church year; Advent and Lent. We are coming up to Advent in a couple of weeks- a time a of preparation for the Coming One- both in the birth of  our Saviour, and in the possibly-neglected-by-many-Christians hope of the Second Coming of our Lord. Preparation stirs us out of normal routines and forces us to think intentionally about what we are preparing for, and amongst these- for Christians- will be stirrings in the heart of both the comings I have mentioned above.

Preparation for Christmas is taken over by presents, decorations, food, drink- preparation for yearly excess; preparation for Christmas and the Second Coming will more likely, for those for whom these are spiritual realities, focus more on pruning, reflection, and actions allied to retrenchment to the basics, the core, of life lived for God.

May your preparation, possibly pruning, yield an abundant harvest; as our Lord puts it- life in all its fullness.

Saturday, 9 November 2019

swimming, floating, diving

It took me forever as a child to learn to swim; I was probably nine or ten when I realised that the water would hold up even me. It was a matter of trust; yes the water would hold up all the others in our class who were thrashing around the pool; but me? the jury was out on that one.
I can swim, after a fashion, but I don't like to get too far out of my depth. I remember sailing across the Atlantic in 1969, and the thought of so much water beneath the ship- who knows how many feet, maybe miles!- of water lay beneath the hull, filled me with unease. ( By contrast, 33000 feet of air beneath me in a plane leaves me quite unmoved.)

I am drawn back to the little I know of St. Isaac of Nineveh, that 7th century eastern, (and watery) saint. Born in Qatar, he likely saw  and was familiar with pearl divers in his youth, and that knowledge informed some of his writings. He asks us to dive into God, as if seeking pearls. To realise that although my boat is so small and your sea is so large, O God ( part of the well-known prayer of the Breton fishermen), we can be sustained and thrive in the sea of God's love; we can seek and find pearls if we leave the boat. And dive, or swim, or float in the ocean of God's love.

It's a call to a deeper communion with God, a call which I'm convinced God is making all the time. Few hear, it, and I should think that fewer still respond.  The call is still there. I for one am attempting to answer it. Just off to get my speedo's on- as it were. 

Sunday, 3 November 2019

A Kingdom

In May 1649- I remember it well......- an Act was passed by Parliament setting up a republic, to be known as The Commonwealth, following the execution of the king, Charles I. And for the following eleven years England was a republic, governed by the Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell. After his death his son Richard carried out the duties of that office for eight or so months, before negotiations brought back Charles II in 1660. History lesson over, except to say that for most of its history, England has been a kingdom, or part of one.

I write this blog as we dwell briefly in church life in 'the kingdom season'; the time between All Saints' Day and the Feast of Christ the King. It gives us pause to look back over the journey we have made from the promise of Advent last year, through Christ's life and ministry, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, and all the reflections on that since Pentecost; to sum it up, to rejoice in the completeness of God's work, to acknowledge Jesus as Lord and God.

We live in the 'now and not yet', the 'now and still to come' in this kingdom. We know something of the rule of God, and long for, pray for, its completion. Mostly it's hidden, or is seen by those with eyes to see, ears to hear; but the hope of every Christian is that it will be revealed in fullness at a time of God's choosing. We see something of what that revelation of the person of 'Christ the King' might be when we see a picture of a monarch in full regalia. The picture is one of richness, authority, rule, power. St. John gives us a picture of all this and more via his privileged glimpse into heaven as he writes about it in the Revelation. Meanwhile, in this kingdom season we pray and praise in words that befit homage to a king; 'blessing and honour and glory and power be yours for ever and ever'.