Saturday, 30 January 2021

In search of the essay

 Whatever happened to the essay? That extended piece of writing which allowed an author to say his or her bit on a topic of choice, with erudition and wit, not to mention excursi as time and theme allowed .Its natural home was The New Yorker and prime journals- I hesitate to use a word as louche as 'magazine'- of that ilk.  These thoughts are prompted by a recent reading of an essay by Gore Vidal, now deceased, but at one time the urbane, deadly skewer and scourge, inter alia, of the inconsistencies of American policy.

The essay demanded of its readers time to read it and digest it, to absorb its erudition, enjoy its unfolding, take note of its thesis. So different from the home life of our own dear experience; who has time to read something  that long? We rely on much shorter snatches of news and opinions, views, reviews and sound-bites to mould our world picture. 

This has implications for the faith. I wonder who, apart from priests and academics, reads the longueurs and tight arguments of theology nowadays. Indeed, who reads the Bible? I changed the epistle reading (legitimately- it was a lectionary alternative) at a service one time, and the churchwarden, Bible in hand, said to me 'You find it- I'm no good at this'. If we do not read the text we say we live by, how can we judge that what we hear, sing, pray, preach, bears any relationship to the faith, handed down? 

The intercessions of St, Jude, patron saint of lost causes, are needed here. Enabling a good read, not only of the scriptures, but of much that shapes and shakes our world, so that we have some understanding of where we come from, where God wants to take us, and how near to, or far from that our primrose path may be taking us.    

Saturday, 23 January 2021

Finding pasture

 There are some who have embraced the faith because it offers answers, security, a haven where with like-minded believers they can be together rejoicing in their salvation on the inside of the sheep fold- that sheep fold which Jesus talks about in John chapter 10. Here in northern England, dry stone walls in a roughly circular shape have a narrow entrance, one person wide, to an inside large enough to hold a flock of sheep, who enter the area one by one through that small entrance. The shepherd sleeps across the entrance, protecting his charges. 

But it is outside this hugger-mugger enclave that the sheep find pasture. Inside can become fetid and arid, its little area of grass soon finished, its earth churned up by many hooves milling about. Inside is safe, out of the wind, maybe out of some of the rain and snow, guarded by the body of the shepherd, and all that is wonderful- but it's not the place to be in daylight hours. It's oh no! out there that the pasture is found; yes, along with  possible dangers, but more importantly with the experienced shepherd who leads his flock to pasture, with the sure knowledge of where that pasture can be found.

I've had my share of holy huddles, I'll admit, but am less and less drawn to them. Out there is so much more exciting, vibrant, so much more satisfying. In these covid-days, though, out there is not as accessible as it was. Virtual out there via Zoom and its stable-mates is the best we can do; what opportunities have presented themselves to you in this way, such that the safe confines of lockdown- home have given way, even though only virtually, to exciting, satisfying pasture out there? 

Monday, 18 January 2021

It's been a while.....

 I think it was the beginning of November- about ten weeks ago- since I was able to blog. Some gremlin in the works has prevented access to the site; or has wiped what I wrote, on the few occasions I accessed the site, as soon as I pressed the 'publish' button. A clean-up of my laptop by an outside company I have used from time to time, has ensured that this, and other issues too numerous to mention, but which could all come under the heading of 'decidedly off-kilter', have now been sorted. 

Off-kilter is what I find myself being, many times. Clogged up, failing to deliver, off-centre, unable to connect. No, I am not a robot, a machine, but the analogy applies. And a clean-up generally restores function. A realisation that God is near, and not far off; a self-appraisal which recognises how much in need of grace I am; a seeking forgiveness; a bringing of God back to the centre of the picture. Sometimes this realisation of the need for a clean-up comes several times a day; sometimes it's been a while. 

The central fact is this; the clean-up, the restoration of grace, makes real what I say in the creed each Sunday- that I believe in the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection of the body. That's how forgiveness is- a resurrection from malfunction to something short of popping on all cylinders, but still ready to go, clarified, clean.