Sunday, 28 March 2021

Rules and grace

 Last week I wrote of grace. This week I'm firmly back in the world of rules; I write to a prisoner on death row in the US, and twice recently my letters have been returned since the envelopes were non-standard. The first time I sent the letter in an envelope of the palest shade of grey, not knowing that they should be white. Letter returned to me by the authorities, undelivered to its recipient. So I put it in a white envelope, and sent it off. Letter returned, ditto. The interior of the envelope was blue, printed thus presumably to prevent prying eyes seeing the envelope's contents. But still not good enough; the search is now on for that rare beast, a white envelope with a white interior- and it ain't easy to find. 

Ah yes, rules. If only we knew them all, could keep them all. If only I was aware of the rules, handed down since childhood, that govern my life- even better, aware of the rules that govern yours, so that I don't cross them. Put like this, together with the variable rules of every society, written and unwritten, changing and unchanging, petty-fogging and common-sensical, public and private, new and old, there must be an infinite number. No wonder we are confused, transgressing at every turn, 'in thought, word and deed, through negligence, through weakness, through our own deliberate fault.'

All of which is somehow transcended for those in the faith by grace, which in a world of infinite rules, allows me to move forward, The promise is that I shall not be trapped in failure to keep the rules, anxiety that I have transgressed, and thus immobilised; but experience the green pastures, the goodness and expansiveness of salvation, of grace, which put rules into a perspective which acknowledges their place, but allows me to see the shocking truth that grace is sovereign. This coming week exemplifies the clash of rules and grace- in spite of the insistent and deathly voice of rules, grace overcomes.  

Sunday, 21 March 2021

I'm ahead of you

 I'm conscious of the shortcuts I take in my relationships. I'm interested in what job you have, so that I can judge your economic status, which in my foolishness I assume to be related to your education and intelligence. Armed with this, I think I know how to come on to you. In the end it's 'you' servicing my needs. 

There is an alternative, of course. I could just listen and let you unfold yourself. I could give you wholehearted attention, and pick up the signals about who you are, and not what you are. But I guess so much of modern life is about 'my time is precious, and I have to make a quick decision about you- are you worth investing my time in?' 

I don't see that in Jesus. I see him taking in, drinking in, the whole person. 'What would you like me to do?' Such a simple question, but it gets to the heart of the matter. No assumptions, just getting the person in front of him, who has his whole attention, to express their deepest self. 

I could learn from that- if I had the time. .    

Saturday, 13 March 2021

Grace is where we find it

 I have long maintained to friends and mentors that I find my theology not in the myriad books which formally fall into that category, but in the novels and stories I read. Truth to tell, it's often a defence against doing something I find difficult; and it's an aspiration often, rather than a reality. But in my Book Club meeting last week, theology snuck up on me out of nowhere. 

Towards the end of the two hours' discussion we were devoting to a story of Kamila Shamsie, the word 'atonement' popped up. I've been grappling with it since then, praying about that word, seeking truth in it. A memory from way back that it was William Tindale sometime in the early 16th century, as he translated the Bible into English, who gave the word its theological slant- a shade of meaning it had not carried before. Now, five hundred years later, I cannot see it in any other way than that; and I struggled to see Shamsie's characters  in any atonement light. 

My thoughts and prayers since the Book Club meeting have added to my Lenten journey, as I know how from from 'at one' with God I have been, how little merged into the likeness of Christ, how costive my love of God and neighbour. 

Fortunately, there are still weeks to run in this Lenten season; time to make amends, time for grace to operate, time for atonement to become something more real in me.       

Saturday, 6 March 2021

Blood Donor

 I gave blood earlier this week. Not that I missed it afterwards; life continued as normal. 'This gives me a free-pass on housework for the next six months, doesn't it?' I said to the Donor Carer who was attending to me. She was not sympathetic, but it was worth a try. 

The actual donation took about eight minutes; the health checks, identity checks, waiting, etc took up the rest of the hour. I wish I'd signed on to donating earlier- I was in my forties when I began, and want to get to fifty donations (just two needed to reach this point) before I think I may retire; age brings complications. 

For those within the faith, it's not so big a leap of the imagination to go from blood to the wine in the chalice at Holy Communion. The wine is meant to bring to mind the blood of Christ, shed on the cross. A sip of the wine is life-giving to me, at the cost of the life draining from the crucified Christ.

I've booked my next blood donation appointment for about twelve weeks' time. I should reach my fifty donations by the end of the year, all things being equal. I only wish that there was the same certainty about holy communion. These covid-months are the longest time I have not taken the life-giving elements. I feel the life draining out of me. But today a local church where I help has decided to open for Easter. A booking, as it were, for a transfusion of life.