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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
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.
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.
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.
Monday 30th March
Wednesday 25 March
Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often..
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.
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!
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.
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!
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…
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!
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.
Perhaps 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.