Saturday, 25 April 2020

Write this......

I note that I have now posted over one hundred blogs on this site. Over four hundred appeared on the website elsewhere when I was in parish ministry. It's a weekly task which remains a pleasure more that a duty; there is always something good to say about God. Together with the occasional poems I  write, these posts are now the main way I witness to the goodness and grace of God.

'My tongue is the pen of a ready writer' says the psalmist- for me, it's the other way round; my pen is my tongue, at least in 'declaring the works of the Lord' in the small corner which is my life. It has about it Dr. Johnson's riff on Descartes' I think therefore I am';- 'I write therefore I am alive'. Writing, such as I practice it, was a vocation I accepted when I was ordained. I had always written in one way or another, but that endorsement of the church in ordaining me gave writing a push it might not have had otherwise. I wanted part of my ministry to be writing something for God, about God, from God (you will be the judge of how successful that has been) each week. Not deep, not fancy, not inaccessible, not super holy, but something simple which reflects the intersection of an ordinary life- mine- with the grace of God as it finds me, challenges me, changes me, confirms me.

We all have a story to tell, many stories to tell. Those stories reveal us to others, and to ourselves. They do not end with death- how that story intersects with others will affect and shape the ones who hear the story, read the story, beyond my life.We know this from the words of those long-dead which still resonate with us. Scripture is but one example. Words impact us. My story is the Word- St. John's name for Christ- impacting me. Robert Louis Stevenson puts it far better than I;
Bright is the ring of words/When the right man rings them./Fair the fall of songs/When the singer sings them./Still they are carolled and said-/On wings they are carried-/After the singer is dead/And the maker buried.

May our story be one of goodness, and our words of grace.

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Blowin' in the wind

Out for a brief walk, keeping to a route where we were unlikely to meet others, we came across a man's shirt on the hedge, presumably blown there by a recent high wind. It seemed in good nick; we took it home, washed and ironed it. This is the second gift brought to us by the wind- a year or so ago a single-sized fitted sheet appeared on the fence by the park area in front of the house, directly after some gales. No-one claimed it; after some days we took it in, cleaned it, and I took it to Kenya as part of my bedding last autumn; the shirt, attractive and expensive though it was, was an XXL- I looked lost in it, so it will go to a charity shop when they reopen. Both these 'gifts' were, we imagine escapees from washing lines somewhere near us.

Unexpected gifts, blown in by the wind- how can I resist the direct parallel with the gifts God gives us via his Spirit, usually unexpectedly? I can't. But it did prompt some digging into the metaphor. Neither sheet nor shirt were 'oven ready'; both required some work. And both turned out to be for the benefit of others- via the charity shop, and the work I do as a charity trustee. The largest question these gifts prompt is ' Is this legitimately mine to have?'  In that both were unclaimed, we gave both shirt and sheet a temporary home.

'Is this mine to have?'- an attitude, a question I have asked, and maybe you have too, about the gifts of God which arrive unbidden in our hearts. Why do I continue to ask this question when my experience of the love of God is that it is 'the gift that keeps on giving', boundless, free, unstinting. But once I acknowledge that this is how it is, that God loves to give, I find I can give his gifts a home, make them ready, and use them for the benefit of others. The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind......

Saturday, 11 April 2020


Just as we are getting used to life in a quieter register, a more domestic mode, more circumscribed, along comes the resurrection; something tearing through the fabric of expectations, up-skittling what we consider the natural order of things. Tearing, up-skittling; words which suggest possibly a noisy, even violent, irruption into human affairs. A bursting forth.

Certainly St. Matthew's account of the resurrection, with its earthquake,and resurrected bodies seen in Jerusalem, has something of this noisy bursting forth. A degree of mayhem, panic and fear is experienced in this world  where Jesus is now back, very much back, on the scene. Other gospel writers take a more measured approach; the resurrection happens quietly, unseen, in the dark. It sneaks up on an unsuspecting world, although it doesn't take long to move centre-stage.

I don't know any quiet resurrection hymns for Easter Day. They all have something, rightly, of the crash-bang-wallop about them. Victory, the death of death, hope, new life in a divine dimension- what's not to celebrate- fortissimo?

But the resurrection is not one-size-fits-all. Quiet or noisy, fortissimo or pianissimo, celebratory or just a smile, may the resurrected Christ meet you today, address you by name, recognise you, and you Him.

We adore you O Christ, and we bless you, for by your holy cross, you have redeemed all the world.

Saturday, 4 April 2020

This narrower time

It takes time to settle into the more enclosed world we are experiencing just now. We must not imagine that as soon as Moses reached the heights of Mt. Horeb, the ten commandments came to him just like that; nor that Elijah experienced God as 'the sound of utter silence' as soon as he arrived in the cave after his escape from Ahab and Jezebel; nor that Jesus was tempted immediately he was in the wilderness. The consciousness of the presence of God has to be cultivated, and takes time.

Nevertheless, the reports from this enclosed world are encouraging. I remember visiting Mother Julian's room in Norwich, where she was walled in for decades as an anchorite in the late 14th century. Her legacy from this enclosed world- there was a window through which she could receive food, and counsel people- is most famously summed up in her phrase 'All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.'

We have resource to others, as Mother Julian had through her window; all manner of tech-stuff is available to us. But importantly we have resource to God, and this could be a time for deepening our relationship with him. It has to be cultivated, but this epidemic seems like a long haul. There is the time. This is the time.

Let me come at it another way; the rubrics for the Communion of the sick, in the Book of Common Prayer, state that 'although he do  not receive the sacrament with his mouth'- and few will receive the sacrament in these days- there is an inward communion 'profitably to his soul's health' which may be found in steadfast belief, confession, thanksgiving and meditation on the benefits of Christ's passion.

All these aids to our enclosure point to the fact that we are invited, in the words of the old hymn, to say 'it is well, it is well, with my soul'. Settle into this wellness and health.