Saturday, 26 September 2020

the joy and comfort of hospitality

I popped round to some friends earlier this week with plants I'd promised. Nothing special- just a perennial of which we have an excess, and which our friends can use to help fill their newish borders. It was a visit purely with that in mind- I'd said I'd leave the plants at the gate. 

But -let's call him Jo- Jo was at the front of the house, working. Conversation followed, and then Mrs. Jo came out, and asked if I'd like a coffee. No thanks; you're busy, this was a quick visit, unexpected at this hour. 

But how welcome were those words. An invitation to make this more than a functional drop-off of some plants. To go inside, undressed as I was for a more formal visit. Hospitality out of the blue. 

This is so redolent of God. To be invited inside, to be friends, to be fed, and all when I least expect it. Hear George Herbert on this theme; 

Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back, /Guiltie of dust and sinne. /But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack/ From my first entrance in,/Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning/ If I lack'd any thing.

A guest, I answer'd, worthy to be here:/Love said, You shall be he,/I the unkinde, ungratefull? Ah my deare,/ I cannot look on thee./Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,/ Who made the eyes but I?

Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them ; let my shame/Go where it doth deserve./And know you not, sayes Love, who bore the blame?/ My deare, then I will serve. /You must sit down, sayes Love, and taste my meat:/So I did sit and eat.  

Sunday, 20 September 2020

Letting go

 We've been shedding stuff;one of the bookcases lining a wall in the lounge has had to go, in order to accommodate a more modern tv. Getting rid of books, for me, has all the agony of teeth being pulled without anaesthetic, but praise be, a judicious selection of no-hopers in the long line of books I've bought over the years with the intention of reading one day, has been sent to a local Oxfam charity book shop. 

More space, then, on the wall for pictures, as well as the new tv. More space in the middle of the room as the coffee table, now back against the wall, supports the tv. And breathe......

But inevitably, there will be the accumulation of clutter, the 'more' of modern life which fills all the space presently clear of stuff. May it take a long time, and may it be accompanied by further de-clutterings. A process I see mirrored in my life-in-God; clutter/de-clutter, ad infinitum.

I am reminded of a prayer, given to me by our son's godmother; 'Let not our souls be busy inns that have not room for thee and thine, but quiet homes of prayer and praise where thou mayst find fit company; where the needful cares of life are wisely ordered and put away, and wide, sweet space is kept for thee.'

May it be.    

Saturday, 12 September 2020

That Mary- the Blessed Virgin

 I was brought up in a non-believing household, but one which nevertheless- like all homes- held a number of prejudices, which I am heir to today. One was the place of the Virgin Mary, these prejudices, absorbed without any thought, together with early experience of church, led to a faith where she was whitewashed from the picture. I still struggle to give her her rightful place in my (limited) understanding of what it means to be a Christian. 

I note that last Tuesday is marked as 'the birthday of Our Lady'. Not a major Marian feast, perhaps-I don't know, but it caused me to think a little about her place in God's economy. In a sense all she did in the first instance, was to say 'yes' to God, unaware of all the consequences. From that flowed unimaginable good. 

And that is the pattern marked out subsequently for every Christian soul. An impetus of the Holy Spirit, and  a willingness to say 'yes' marks the beginning of a journey from which comes unimaginable good for  the salvation of the world. I hope and pray for that I may cultivate that same spirit as was found in her.     

Saturday, 5 September 2020

Think of it as a gift

 I'm nervous about the service I shall lead this morning; it's the first time I've been in church since mid-March, and much has changed. No hymns, socially-distanced spacing (something the C of E has been practising for decades- whoops!), communion in one kind only, and the rest...... I hope I shall remember all that I have to do, all that I have to announce, all that I would normally do and now can't. At least until things return to the status ante quo- if they ever do. 

So; nervous, nostalgic for how things used to be, hopeful that people will come, glad that we can be together in church again, antennae out to monitor how it compares to what went before. It will be familiar and unfamiliar at the same time.

I remember a friend telling me to view a visit to a Sunday service in a denomination I had never been to before  like this; think of the cat bringing you a mouse as he comes in after a night's hunting. My reaction would be 'ugh!', and worse if the mouse were still alive. But the gift is a gift of love. So try to view it as such, whatever your feelings. 

Today's analysis after I return home will not be- I hope- within the emotional spectrum of that story above. We shall do our best this morning in church, however limited the circumstances, to worship God in the best way we can, knowing it is our gift to him. After all, we echo St Paul's words' thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!'