I was always impressed by the girls at my primary school who could do that trick with their hands – here’s a church, here’s the steeple, through the doors and here are the people, and so on.
What impressed me was partly the uncopiable twisting wrists, the neatly knitted fingers, but it was also the way they could turn one thing – a human body into lots of little things: a church, a congregation, a parson climbing the stairs. You forget the person who’s telling the story, the person whose body this is, and just see the multiple elements in the story.
To you all,
Welcome to Holy Week.... Hosanna!
Hosanna? Does it sound odd in your ears? It does in mine, if I'm honest. Easter is going to feel odd to us all this year. We need to prepare ourselves, our hearts for that fact.
Through this week and beyond, I feel we may steer slightly away from the Psalms and towards the Prophets. Their anguished and righteous call for a return to God, a change of heart, a new way of living may resonate strongly this year as we journey towards what will be something of a whispered but profoundly special Easter, unique in all our lives. None of us will go unchanged by this Lent, Passiontide, and Easter.
I’m growing a beard. Well, you have to keep yourself occupied somehow.
Since I’m going be isolated, I thought, why not follow Robinson Crusoe’s example and let nature take its course. (Mind you, I still have a way to go before I can give St Euthymius ↑ a run for his money.)
But then I questioned myself: doesn’t Crusoe shave? Decent British chap that he is, he probably fashions a razor from flint or some such, and dutifully shaves in a reflective rock pool or something?
To you all,
Today our Deanery reflection comes from the… Dean himself. So, thank you to Canon Gerald Osborne for sharing his thoughts on something we're all having to show a lot of at the moment - patience.
A friend living in London under lockdown has been posting pictures of the city on Instagram. It’s shocking to see familiar streets suddenly, eerily empty. Without people, the city has taken on that ‘musuem’ quality you find at archaeological sites. These buildings, streets and thoroughfares, you feel, had a function and a life once, but quite what it was you can no longer remember or imagine.
In one photo I recognise the junction of Waterloo Bridge and the Strand, where the Strand becomes Aldwych. There’s the Lyceum theatre with its posters still up for The Lion King. And there’s not a single person to be seen.
At a time of anxiety and confusion and sadness, is it foolish to look... for joy? Perhaps, but then, depending on your point of view, the message of the Cross is foolishess (1 Corinthians 1:18).
Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:20-21)
So we have St Paul's blessing, and... today is April Fool's Day!
To you all,
While we find ourselves rooted suddenly in place, it's worth reflecting on how we're also rooted in time. I'm very grateful to Canon Alan Deboo for this wise and encouraging reflection on our shared roots in scripture and prayer. Perhaps the language of 'our roots' is less about our staying put, and more about our flourishing; less about where we belong and more about who we become...
I’ve been mildly asthmatic since infancy. At points, if I’m honest, it’s been more of a blessing than a curse: at school, for example, I could spend afternoons sitting in a warm library instead of hurling myself around in the cold and the mud.
And it’s a blessing in another way; it serves as a periodic reminder, not of my mortality, but the opposite: my vitality. It forces me to recognise that my life depends absolutely and wonderfully on all sorts of prevailing conditions. In this case, of course, on air. On air and my continuing capacity to breathe it. The gift of life.
I imagine most of us have done some weeping the last few weeks. It seems appropriate, therefore, to think a bit about tears this morning. And I’m going to begin by quoting a passage from the Book of Esther:
The king’s scribes were summoned at that time, in the third month, which is the month of Sivan, on the twenty-third day. And an edict was written, according to all that Mordecai commanded concerning the Jews, to the satraps and the governors and the officials of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, one hundred and twenty seven provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language, and also to the Jews in their script and their language.
St Luke Writing the Gospel in the Presence of the Virgin by Hermen Rode (?1468-c. 1504)
‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’
All Saints' Church, Ham
Quite understandably, it may have slipped your mind we’re in Lent. So perhaps it’s particularly perverse of me to open this morning with a reflection on… Advent:
A prison cell, in which one waits, hopes - and is completely dependent on the fact that the door of freedom has to be opened from the outside, is not a bad picture of Advent.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison
To you all,
I have a feeling the Psalms are going to come into their own over the coming weeks and months, resonating in our hearts with a fresh and poignant relevancy. Suddenly, their deeply personal, sometimes agonised, calls on God for His mercy and healing and steadfast love will sound like our own deepest thoughts and feelings given voice.
Yesterday, saying Psalm 22 in an empty village church was – for me – one of those moments when you feel scripture speaking absolutely directly to you.
I spent yesterday evening in my study with several members of clergy. No, we weren’t in breach of government directives: they were on a screen. We were trying to be together, apart. Video conferencing software helps. A bit.
In a sense we were trying to answer an old question for new times, the question posed in Psalm 137:
How can we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land? (4)
Two butterflies are fluttering up against the east window of All Saints Burbage where I'm saying Morning Prayer. Apart from me, they’re the only living things in the place. And they’re trapped. We all feel trapped at the moment.
This morning I had a semi-semaphore conversation with my self-isolating brother-in-law through a closed window. Anxiety in his eyes; he certainly feels trapped.
Coming home, I find this reflection from Lucy…