Benefice of Harston, Hauxton and Newton

  • The Vicarage
  • Church Street
  • Harston
  • Cambs
  • CB22 7NP

01223 873284


The Rev'd Susan's Blogs


Blessed are you

Yesterday as I stood in the pharmacy queue at Harston I was listening to a podcast on perspective. It was the story of Ed Jackson, a professional rugby player with a decade of playing at the top level under his belt, when in 2017 he dived into a leisure pool and broke his neck. 

And he talks very honestly and so positively about his own fight to re-gain perspective, and now he says his life, despite being disabled now for the rest of his life, is so much better than it ever was. Because it has taught him what is really important.

It’s on the 'Don’t tell me the Score' podcast for 21st April, and it’s really, really interesting.

 

It reminded me of some of the most grounding teaching that Jesus ever utters, it is the words that start Jesus’ most ‘famous’ teaching: 'the sermon on the Mount’ in Matthew ch 5, where Jesus literally taught hundreds of people from a hillside just down the road.

They are familiar words and very deep, but they are so apt for us at this time.

 

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth

 Healing

 

Today at 11 o’clock we will have a minute’s silence for careworkers and NHS staff who have died of coronavirus. Silence is the best tribute, our silence, our tears, our heartfelt gratitude, and even then, we know that nothing replaces a life…

 

...unless we also know that God replaces a life, with more life. And the whole reason for the Easter we have just celebrated, is that God came right down among us to show us love and care and life, and to enable, through Jesus dying and rising, us to have life ever after, even beyond this life. 

And at that point, when we have received that, we start to understand some of the seemingly upside-down thinking of the Beatitudes (as they are technically known).

For Jesus was telling the people who first listened to him some very radical things, a completely upside-down thinking, 

Maybe in our upside-down world at the moment these will make a bit of sense as we construct a new perspective. They are easiest understood in the Message version the Bible:


3 "You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. 


4 "You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.


5 "You're blessed when you're content with just who you are - no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.

 

Susan baptising


6 "You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat. 


7 "You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'careful,' you find yourselves cared for. 


8 "You're blessed when you get your inside world - your mind and heart - put right. Then you can see God in the outside world. 


9 "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.

 

 Wedding

 

One of the best parts of my role as a priest is to be able to bless people, to channel God’s goodness and grace and love and life towards another person, or people.

May you be blessed today with a sense of perspective, with an understanding of the depth of the love of God for you, and the ways you can share that love to others around.

we’re in this together, and God is here too.

Beatitudes

 



Bless you!

Susan

 

 



The cross


Good morning on this 'Good Friday’,

 

I can remember being most puzzled well into my teens as to what was so good about a day when we remember Jesus’ death. It didn’t sound particularly good!

And even now, on the day, I find it hard to think of it as good, as suffering is never good, and neither is death.

 

According to the Bible at the beginning of all life, God did not intend death as a thing, but the forces of ill crept in and disrupted everything.

This could not go on. The final solution was for God to literally become human, demonstrate the goodness of God in everything Jesus said and did, and then to take all that the forces of ill could throw at him, in order that by dying, but then being raised by the power of the goodness and love of God, the powers of ill were ultimately defeated. 

 

We live, unfortunately with the death throes of ill, in our broken world. We are very conscious of it at the moment, but it is not the end of the story.

Jesus came as light and life, to bring all of us light and life, forever.

 

That is why it is a Good Friday. 

 

And when we are exposed to particular suffering, we also know that we have a God who has also suffered, and can stand alongside us and give us the spiritual resources we need at that time, strength and patience, and kindness and love.

 

Bless you today, bless you this weekend, and may you choose life and love in every choice you make, as there is God.

 

 




Hello Everyone,

I hope you are doing as well as you can at the moment.
One of the images I am using this week is this picture of a mountain scene, painted by a Canadian painter in the style of early Canadian painters. It is a really still scene, still with a sense of awe at the height and solidity and enduring nature of the mountains, and still as still with the deep dark lake at their feet.


Mountain and lake

We have now begun Holy Week. In many places, as our news has shown us, there is more of a sense of the sort of chaos of the busy city of Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (this last Sunday) than there is of a week where gradually Jesus gets less public and quieter, until he and his closest friends meet up in a top room to share the Passover meal together. It would have been a very different Passover for them than ever before because Jesus knows that his time of suffering has come. Let me explain about this week, this Holy Week:






So Holy Week, a week of solidarity with Jesus’ suffering, and with all who suffer is more appropriate than ever this year. It will not feel like a quiet week in ITUs across our country, or in care homes, or in high-rise flats in cities. 

But if we can instil just a moment or two of quietness into our day, each day this week, in those moments we will be able to hold before God the people in ITUs, not least our own Prime Minister, alongside London bus drivers, health care workers, men, women, young people and older. And in the quiet that we cultivate we can hold before God all our elderly in care homes and those who look after them, that they may still bear these days with patience and good humour and warmth for each other. And in our moment of quiet we may hold before God all those young families, single parents with children and little resources or outside space. And we can ask for God’s supernatural gifts of love and gentleness and kindness to be given to us all at this time.

I will pray for all of us here in this neighbourhood, and further afield, this week.

Monday 30th March


Hello Everyone!


Psalm


 

 

It is not a normal Monday morning today, our youngest son is not at work so he didn’t wake us at 6 today, we had a lie-in until 7.30! I took the dog for a short walk this morning and it was very quiet. I was later than I usually am but there was hardly traffic of course, just one white van. It was lovely and quiet. Just now as I write I can hear the wood pigeons cooing, it is very quiet.

 

Today is the start of the last week of Lent. With all the rapid changes over the last couple of weeks I had slightly lost sight of the journey I started taking in these six weeks that lead up to Easter. We started by thinking about Jesus going into the desert country, prompted by the Spirit of God. And as we started the first Sunday of Lent, I suggested that Jesus at this stage had just turned 30, and for him, that year, it was suddenly one of those big birthdays, the ones which we celebrate, but also that make us think and reflect: what is going on in my life at the moment? Am I doing what makes me who I am? …those sort of questions. 

And we reflected that those are good questions at times in our lives. And Lent can be a good chance to take stock.


World

 

Now, four weeks on we are suddenly in such a different place, we no longer have a normal Monday morning, and for many this has given more space and time. And all around the world people are in similar circumstances, that doesn’t happen very often, in just a month we are in a different world, for now. And these factors give us chance to take stock; - not to be able to plan for the future, that will come much later - but time to notice what has changed, what good has been brought to us in our new schedule; and what we find challenging, and working out how to face those challenges. Our life has been limited, but we still have choices, the choice of how to react to these limitations. We still have the ability to make small but important decisions, as to how we are going to face more time alone for some, less time alone for others. We can choose to stay in touch with others by phoning and writing and chatting to our neighbour in the garden next door. We can choose how much news we listen to or watch; we can notice, gradually, what is important to us in our lives. 

 

Our Psalm this morning is Psalm 121 which in its well-known form is at the beginning of this blog. 

I looked it up in a modern translation of the Psalms by Leslie Brandt called: ‘Psalms Now’ and I found it really helpful:

 

Where should I look for help in my need?

To majestic mountain peaks that probe our skies

or to giants of industry that clog our land?

To satellites that circle our world

or to computers that store our knowledge?


The answer to my problems 

and the fulfilment of my needs

must come from God, Godself,

From God who created skies and mountains

and men and women to dwell in their midst.

God is a great God who knows our every desire,

whose watchful eye is upon us night and day.

We can make no move without God’s knowledge.

God’s concern for God’s children is constant,

God’s love for them, eternal.


And thus the Lord will keep you,

shielding you from the forces of evil

as a shade tree shields you

from the rays of the blazing sun.


God does care for you,

and God will fight with you

against the enemies of your soul.

Whether you are coming or going,

God knows the course you take,

and God will go before you.

(Psalm 121 Leslie Brandt: Psalms Now)


NZ

The mountain picture above was taken on a very different Monday morning, not a normal one again, but one on our holiday in New Zealand in early January. We were driving from Wanaka to Queenstown through a wonderful hilly pass, an old sheep droving pass with steep slopes either side of us, grass full of wild lupins in soft yellows and mauves, occasional streams going under the road . . . it was absolutely stunningly beautiful. And it seemed to go on for miles and miles, until suddenly we emerged round a corner to a completely open vista with this mountain (above) ahead of us. We stopped and I walked up the slope in the mist, which again suddenly cleared. Before I had time to get my camera out an airliner came in from the left, about eye level with myself, and made its way down the narrow corridor parallel with the mountain, in and out of the cloud.  After taking the photo above we continued our journey and made our descent onto the plains to the right. We followed a huge long oil tanker who roared down the zig-zag road, pausing only briefly at the hairpin bends, I reflected that for him, this stunning landscape was just another Monday morning.


May you maintain a good perspective in the ups and downs of this coming week. 

bless you

Susan



Wednesday 25 March


In the Church calendar today, we mark the annunciation of the Virgin Mary.  It always seems a little odd to me as it feels like a rewind to Christmas.  However, there would have been no Christmas without her glad assent to a very challenging life.

I think today of that wonderful verse in Luke (2:19).  On the night of his birth, which to Joseph and Mary must have felt a very ordinary human experience, suddenly there were skies full of angels, and shepherd visitors…listening to their story:


Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often..

How much Mary would be pondering again as Jesus left the house to see John the Baptist, was baptised and then led into the wilderness for 6 weeks?  No doubt, as a mother, even though he was in his thirties, she would probably have worried…but also have wondered…. what was this leading to?

It was leading to Jesus developing his relationship with God, his Father, who had said to him at his baptism:
 ’This is my Son, whom I love’ 

An affirmation like that would need pondering on, and Jesus, who in heaven had known such close communion with the Father and the Spirit, now has to learn all about prayer as the means to be in touch as a human being.

Yesterday as I was studying, I read this paragraph talking about Jesus and prayer, by Bishop Lesslie Newbigin: 

What are we doing when we pray? are we simply projecting our desires onto the universe hoping there is someone there to answer?

Think of the passage where we read of Jesus praying. And his disciples, seeing him pray, ask: ‘Lord, teach us to pray.’ 

Jesus' deep, childlike, intimate communion, stirred his disciples to realise they do not know how to pray.


Prayer is a huge part of Lent, let’s mull on this story.




I am so grateful that at this particular time we have been given sunshine. Everything is better when the sun comes out. As a photographer I know the frustration of being somewhere unique, with a fantastic subject for a photograph ahead of me, and no sunshine in which to take it. For many years I took the shot anyway, but now I have learnt that it is just not the same! So, on Sunday I was delighted that someone had parked this lovely old tractor, right where the evening sun shines!

 Tractor

We need the sun just now because the reality of our strange situation is beginning to sink in. It is one thing to have to stay in for a while, another to find shopping quite difficult, but quite another to realise that so many of us will be losing income and wondering where that will take us?

It is a sobering time. I passed a friend on a footpath today as we both took our dogs for a walk. Stopping at a safe distance we agreed that it is a seesaw time. It has potential for good, people selflessly helping their neighbours, communities coming together as they haven’t for a long time, and for many less rushing around and more time to do things. But we do need to keep this seesaw in balance; it doesn’t take much for it to tilt the wrong way- just one too many news bulletins, a fear of the unknown taking a bit of a hold - so we need strategies to keep the seesaw balanced.

Seesaw

I was listening to Stephen Fry, linked from his home in Norfolk to the Andrew Marr show on Sunday. Stephen is the president of the fantastic mental-health charity ‘Mind’ and Andrew was asking him for strategies to cope with anxiety. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘I think it is important that we take time over things.’ and he explained how he was enjoying cooking so much more, simply because he gathered everything together first, in little bowls, like they do in tv chef shows, and only once everything was laid out did he start. It was giving him a lot of pleasure, and just slowed everything to a good level.

I agree with Stephen Fry, it is a very satisfying way to cook - slightly heavier on the washing up, but v satisfying! Slowing things down is not something we are used to, but it is easier on the nerves.

 It’s also a well-established spiritual tradition. In the 1600’s a man was born in Lorraine in France under the name of Nicholas Herman. He became a soldier in his teens but was wounded fighting Swedish soldiers near Rambervilliers. It seems to have left him with a permanent disability as he left the army and became a rather incompetent footman, or so he says. At the age of 18 he encountered God in such a way that he was never to turn from God again. His middle life is quite unclear but eventually he was received as a lay brother into the Decalced (barefoot) Carmelites and their monastery. Quite probably he never saw life again beyond the walls of this place, but this was far from a subject of anxiety for him and instead he began ‘a practice of the presence of God.’

 “We should,” he said, “fix ourselves firmly in the presence of God by conversing all the time with him.”

 This establishes a link between ourselves and God. and then, then we can start to do each and every thing as if we do it for the love of God, and whether it be the smallest or the largest thing.

 “He was happy,” he said, “to pick up a straw from the ground for the love of God.”

 The monastery put him in the kitchen, not something he relished at all, and yet, over the years, this unknown monastery cook, Brother Lawrence, became a great inspiration. Because so many people over the years, like us now, have at one time or another had to face the prospect of a changed and difficult time, with a routine we don’t particularly like that may stretch further into the future than we like to think.

And we need strategies, and we need love, to get through.

 So enjoy the small things. As the children and staff from Little hands Nursery in Newton and myself found out a few weeks ago, moss and lichen are absolutely fascinating… but we don’t really look at them very often. Now we may have time to both look and even draw them… or certainly photograph!

 Moss



 Spring 2

Spring1

As I look out through my study window I can see the cheerful nodding yellow heads of all the daffodils that I planted in the Autumn, and it is a delight!

And God said to Noah…Spring 4

As long as the earth remains, there will be planting and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night.”

This is one of the earliest promises of God to humankind, a promise in perpetuity, so we can still rely on the fact that each year we can plant bulbs in autumn and they will appear in the spring. The seasons and the harvest will remain, - even if some years those timings are moved forward or back a little with flooding or drought!

Spring 3Spring 8

I remember reading a story about Winston Churchill’s wife, Clementine. It was said that during the war she went out into a park or gardens in London and planted bulbs. It was not so much to cheer 


people up, she said, but an act of defiance. “We will see these bulbs grow again, and we will be free to do so!” it has stayed in my mind, that sometimes we need visual reminders of constancy and continuity.


I have been pruning and mulching and removing the weeds just putting their leaves out in the vicarage garden. I am longing to plant, too, in preparation for our Harston Open Gardens, and that will come. 


Spring 6Perhaps during this strange time of battening down the hatches, we may be able to do even the smallest of garden projects, as an act of courage, positivity and life in the face of everything else.

 


Spring 7Spring 9