Monday, 31 October 2016

NOVEMBER - a meditation on the Anglican calendar: 3 of 12


The dogs bark at the battered sun and rain hangs unwillingly in the morbid sky. Cold, but not so cold as to worry. November, the days of turning the past to the future as we pass through All Saints, All Souls and on to Remembrance. November, when the sad sun slips away and nerves are edgy for a new year. R S Thomas ends his poem "Pluperfect" with these words:
"Where are you? I
shouted, growing old in
the interval between here and now."

November is such a space between "here and now". A time for shouting with Thomas, "Where are you?" as the warmth dribbles away and we remember the people we have lost, the people we long for, and perhaps the God who slips too easily past us in the sly memories that clench our hearts. Who have you lost? There will be someone, perhaps many people. Mostly they will have died. But sometimes we have lost the living through the brokenness of our lives. "Where are you?" is the cry we have all made, if we have lost anyone at all.

The interval between here and now is populated by "so great a cloud of witnesses" and those who have gone before us will not be made perfect without us. The interval between here and now, between space and time, is where we can slip into eternity and find the meaning of all our lives together.

The old guards change as autumn commands the squadding leaves. We march to the cenotaphs of our own memories: parents, sisters, brothers, lovers, friends, children. "Where are you?" we cry and stretch our memories to touch the faces we loved and lost. Only the dead are un-bereaved, for they know the coming of the living. This simple hope beats out the rhythm of our marching - that death shall have no dominion, that eternal life will erupt in the very space between here and now where sorrow constricts our living and despair hangs over us like a clouded moon. Jesus holds open the space between here and now. It is a painful space, no bigger than the eye of a needle, a narrow gate, yet there is room for us to pass if we know the least thing about love. And that is where we may hang our hope - on the crucified God whose loving hands reach out eagerly to us.

November passes, as all time, and Advent comes, bursting with Christmas hope. We have walked again the valley of the shadow, and Christ smiles again in the donkey's breath, the smell of the hay and the cry of the living child.


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Late, late, the King comes, blood red and dripping

Kingdom Season: a meditation

This turn of the year where past and future refuse to glance at each other round the corner of the dark night. Light there is in plenty in the sharpened rockets and the pumpkin candles. But the real illumination comes from the gentle glow of holy ones, mostly long gone, but clouding a witness in communion with the living.
But every soul has her place, each one a moment of Godly image that erupted into life as briefly as a Roman candle, and, just  as grievously, has left us with a mist of memories, both tender and glad.
Hope is sure and certain that their place is in that Kingdom, amongst that multitude that none can number. If only this-world souls would learn that L'Eternel has no interest in numbers beyond the 1, the 3 and the many. A hoi polloi  of those for whom God’s own self is jealous.
And we plant the dead poppies, blood red, not drained of passion and  white, but a real memory of a real soul slaughtered on the tabletop maps of arrogance. And we pause beyond anger (if we are wise) and let the grief of years seep into our souls and give them a love beyond the memories of morning and evening.
But what of this Kingdom? - whose Godly Lord is no democrat, but the cajoler of desire and the whisperer of vocation. A Lordly God who is master of waiting, and chief amongst the pursuers. It is now and not yet, we’re told. And I believe them, or rather the One who told us, the two natured one who could be there and not because his hands were reaching out to you and me, his feet nailed firm to the vertical dimension of love’s universe.
How foolish to think we build this place! It is a gift, a shock, or delight. It emerges before our eyes and is gone. It is everywhere in potence. But a quantum tease that is gone as soon as taped and measured. It has no values, though some would put up labels, a kind of passport control, so that our visas are stamped, and we can add it to our journal of spiritual tourism. But it wasn’t the Kingdom we entered, just the HIMAX film that conned us into thinking we were there. Such is the brilliance of confusing the Kingdom with performed theology, that most amusing of sitcoms. We didn’t get the jokes, because they were us. The kingdom was always just next door, and if only we’d stop looking we would discover it has wrapped us in the breath of the wilful Spirit.
This is the place of lost coins and abandoned sheep, of farmers conned out of their own treasure. Of disgruntled workmen and kings planning a wedding reception. This is no moral place, but a delight of fish filled nets, small seeds and fowls of the air and wise virgins too mean to share.
And in the season late, late, the King comes, blood red and dripping the cost of freedom, forgiveness, love. We call Christ the King but are careful to ensure we have dual nationality.