Sunday, 30 April 2017

MAY - a meditation on the Anglican calendar 9 of 12


This is the dancing month where Philip, sharing his day, as is his nature, brings the request of Greeks, and discovers the emptiness of chasing celebrity. James, emerging head shoulders above Peter and Paul, brings the people together, perhaps the greatest of all vocations, befitting a brother of the Lord; showing Peter and Paul how to do their jobs. Peter will not mind. Paul will ignore it.

Usually this month we hail the day and long for the Spirit to do this work, provided, of course, he leaves us well out of it, for we would all be a Matthias, called, but never, apparently, greatly used. Doubtless he was, but we watch him slip into obscurity and wish we could do the same. Like Prufrock he was content to start a scene or two. Are we?

Nearer home three greats of Canterbury, Archbishops all, who began (Augustine),reformed (Dunstan) and reshaped (Lanfranc) a work that can never be completed, for it is always demanding, like the punch line of a joke, a poise, a skill and a timing that few can manage.

In the light of the Ascension we can rejoice in the knowledge that Jesus is now theChrist of time and space. In the fire of Pentecost we can shudder at the truth of what we have to do, at the truth of the One with whom we have to do.

This May is no country for old literary men, for the scent of days must draw us out and away from desks and pens. But Alcuin reminds us that the Word and the words are never far apart, and that poetry, liturgy, performance and praise are bound to the sparkling sun that wrests the thoughtful from the drudgery of computer screens and DVDs.

But this is a fabulous month full of every age from Jarrow to Julian, from Joan to Josephine – such men! such women! This fertile month of the darling buds of Pentecost, The Spirit could blow us to new living, new desires, new growing. If only.

Whoever will this month, whoever will, can sing the methodical songs, and though Calvin reminds us of the limits of our nature, nature itself is erupting all around, dancing from pole to pole like the leaping child in the visited womb: with a hey! and a ho! and a hey! The Lover loves the spring.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Bide Your Time - an Easter Blog

An incumbency is begun and prayers are prayed...
"cleanse us from unbelief and sloth,
and fill us with hope and zeal,
that we may do your work,
and bear your cross,
and bide your time,
and see your glory....

We are, it seems, passionate about zeal and cross carrying, we love to do work for God (never God's work, of course, God does God's work, not us) and to radiate hope. But biding God's time is a bit of a downer, isn't it? After all we need to get on with it.

Whatever IT is.

Time was when time biding was something I couldn't abide... I mean it was a waste of time, time lost and slipped like clutches and wheels spinning for nothing, sand for the fingers.

Time. We can keep it and lose it, find it and make it, we can pass it and waste it, we can watch it and use it, we can be on it or after it, even before it or miss it . We think we'll know the time when it comes. But do we?

In truth we can do none of those things. For we are simply in it, and it will do to us but we can do nothing in return: we simply ride the stream until it turns us out into the sea of eternity. Time and chance happen to us all. We do not happen to them.

We can no more swim against time than against a rip tide in spate.

So, to bide God's time.

That's a life's work the Church has forgotten with its plans, and renewals and reforms. It was ever thus. There was always too much to do. We'd be still, let time happen to us once we got this done, that done, things rearranged and reordered. Then, in the fulness of time we'd be ready to bide God's time.

Bide God's time? And we said, "No, but we must flee upon horses, there is growth to be gone for and intentional everything.". 
For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel: In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. But you refused and said, "No! We will flee upon horses"—therefore you shall flee! and, "We will ride upon swift steeds"—therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
We are pursued by the Egyptians with their material comforts and the Babylonians with their clever ideas... all of which we must ape in order to compete.

For our God is a business and our merchandise is salvation, and we must corner the market before the competition crowds us out. Time is of the essence, time well used, wrung out and dry in the desiccated conversations of our avoidance of nothing.

Imagine how we would waste time if Church was a space, a waiting, a pregnant pause that folk might conceive as being an opening for them? No, that's for when we've filled the pews and the coffers too. Not for now.

Turn us again, O God of hosts; look down from heaven, and see; have regard for this vine, the stock that your right hand planted. They have burned it with fire, they have cut it down; may they perish at the rebuke of your countenance. But let your hand be upon the one at your right hand, the one whom you made strong for yourself. Then we will never turn back from you; quicken us, and we will call on your name. Turn us again, O LORD God of hosts; let your face shine, and we shall be saved.

Turn us again, O God our saviour, help us to bide your time.

Help us learn to bide you time. 

The three days tomb alone brings Resurrection.

Scripture references: Ecclesiastes 9:11; Isaiah 30:15-16; Psalm 80:14-19

Monday, 10 April 2017

Death by Resuscitation

The fourfold news of war and its rumours, together with the solitary violence of the huddled mass have hung the media's pages, and coloured our lenses with the fading rosé of wearied emotions. We know the script, but we still forget our lines, the truth too bitter to aid our concentration. We'd rather ad lib a sweeter song.
And God's people, aching inside, are caught in his net as two: those who know they have the answers to these things; and those who simply believe that they might understand the questions....  but do so with a pinch of suspicion. The first have won the day for now, and rule the roost, crowing as the eggs of industrious faith are laid and stamped with Judah's icon.
You shall be busy, as I the Lord am busy, as scripture clearly implies.
The Good News, once surrexit, is now resuscitation, as the old things have old life breathed into them, their death ignored and their cadavers emblazoned with gold. Find good news stories to tell of us, they cry, and spread them on the newspapers that will draw the dying embers in the front room fire, and be consumed when the fire burst into life. For a time.
But what a time! Full of plans and decisions, and results grown large and measured. Though the measuring changes the result... yet no one noticed, not understanding that such was nature's small way, quantum in its packaging of light.
As David came to know, the numbers bore no relation to the life, the very numbers that counted against his dying son.
It's time to wash our faces, for we cannot go there, or there come to us, but  let it be a clean faced contemplation, an unhurried holiness, where salt gives the tang and yeast the rise to a wholesome bread, both gone in the using.
But for now, we are told, we must be busy with placating the theologies that deny the fullness of life to women, to complex humanity beyond the binary demand. And be so keen to include the message of death resuscitated that the good news of life by resurrection must be taken up by others, the wise, until we come to our clothed right minds, after the chains and flints of this present debacle. The ten towns await us, but the herd of the busy must be drowned yet in the waters of Baptism which swash around the hulls of our conceits. So legion are they.