Thought for the month

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1093 of Margaret of Scotland, King Malcolm III’s queen, who was canonised in 1250. Our Local Ecumenical Partnership is with a Scottish Episcopal church dedicated to St Margaret, and they celebrated their patronal festival yesterday with a pleasingly high turn-out of worshippers but, alas, none of their usual music. We are all hoping for better things by the time the St Margaret’s congregation next hear Proverbs 31!

Their priest-in-charge, Very Rev Kenny Rathband, spoke of Margaret in his homily: “The saints who have gone before us are not necessarily remembered because they were without fault, or because they had special gifts. They are remembered because they stand as beacons of encouragement, of people who have sought to live a life of faith.

“They stand as lamps on a lampstand, shining for others to follow. They do not make themselves the focus, but rather they shine by reflecting the light of Christ and the service of others.”

You can read the whole homily at this link, and, if you click the image, you’ll link to a wonderful account of Margaret’s life in the Clerk of Oxford’s blog.

During the past week there have been three reminders of harvest – the collect and readings at the St Margaret’s service on 4 October; Eddie’s pastoral letter of 7 October; the on-line and in-church Methodist services on 11 October – all tying in nicely with the fact that last week’s Feast of Saint Michael and All Angels on 29 September traditionally marks the end of the harvest, with a chance to make merry before the autumn really sets in.

We haven’t been able to have our traditional Harvest celebration this year, so it was a pleasure to be able to join the on-line congregation for the annual Haddo Harvest Festival service which was part of the Haddo Arts Festival, this year a totally virtual event. In giving thanks for the harvest safely in we were reminded how shortages during lockdown had made us all more acutely aware of, and therefore hopefullymore grateful for,  those who provide for our daily needs.

In his homily, Canon Michael Hutson of St Andrew’s, Rothesay, Isle of Bute referred to the beautiful responsorial version of Psalm 79 that had been sung. “We and this world are the Lord’s vineyard; he has given it to us, but it is ravaged and destroyed, and so in the psalm we ask that the Lord will visit us again and restore what was always intended before we messed it up. It’s as if God is reminding us that we are meant to be custodians of the earth, not masters of the creation he handed on to us. But even in this psalm we see that all is not lost, because his help will enable us to share what we have begun to mess up.”

If you want to know the reason for our selection of a bowls of conkers and a sheaf of wheat, you’ll have to listen to the rest of the homily …

And now three things remain: faith, hope, and love;
and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)

What if there is no new normal?
What if this is it?
A constant surge here and twist there
What if we cannot find a new routine?
And all the stages of grief continue to assail us
from moment to moment?
How then shall we be pilgrims without way-markers?

There is an echo of something familiar
In constantly moving on, learning as we go
In adopting new ways, temporary rituals
The difficulty is that we like to nail things down
We like our establishment
We like to write tradition on tablets of stone
We like to frame our practices about with solid pillars
even if it makes their toppling all the more grievous 

The lightness of following
a whimsical God
who playfully calls us
to become like children
open to adventure
seeing every new day
as an opportunity
and being grateful for its potential
for the potential of learning new things
for the potential of discovering new wonders
for the potential of each day becoming “the best day”

What if we relearned
that our productivity is not the measure
by which we are judged
Nor our steadiness
or predictability
But, rather, creativity, gentleness, kindness, hope
become signs of health and wealth
And, our sharing of those gifts with those who struggle
bearing one another up on the days when we own our abundance
And being borne up on those days when we need the strength of others
Taking what we need, giving what we can
Co-creating temporary new normals together
and holding lightly to that which we may need to discard
when another new normal comes along

Called by God
to keep on moving
transformed and transforming
by faith
by hope
and by love.

Reposted from journalling, “Reflections on finding God in everyday life”, by kind permission of Liz Crumlish.

On weekday mornings, those who switch between radio programmes benefit from two different “Thoughts for the Day”, on Radio Scotland at about 7:23, and on Radio 4 at about 7:48. These reflections are very varied and their faith perspective makes a welcome change from the news!

Unusually, this morning’s thoughts had the same starting point, the 75th anniversary of the publication of George Orwell’s Animal Farm, a satirical take on Stalin’s Russia.

Fr Jamie McMorrin from St Mary’s Catholic Cathedral, Edinburgh, used Orwell’s own classification of books to describe Animal Farm as one of those books that alters one’s whole attitude to life. The fact that we’re still reading it proves the writer’s pen to be mightier than the dictator’s sword, though, compared to the Bible, Animal Farm’s 75 years is like the blink of an eye, its symbolic allegory is nothing compared to the Book of Revelation, and “if it’s empire-shaking radicalism that you’re after, look no further than St Paul.”

Fr McMorrin also noted the start last weekend of the Edinburgh International Book Festival (this year on-line), and its celebration of the continued importance of books. Reading a good book helps us “try to understand our world, to understand ourselves and to make a small start at changing them both for the better.”

Dr Anna Rowlands of Durham University talked about the group of mid-century writers to which Orwell belonged. Orwell, Camus, and Auden tackled a common set of troubling questions: “How do we get as deeply into the world as possible? look at it without illusion? understand the suffering we create? but also find the courage to resist and to hope?”

For Auden, Christ’s command to love ones neighbour was the teaching that could enable resistance to power gone awry. Being able to see the infinite worth of an imperfect other was for him an insight that comes from outside ourselves. It’s “the kind of insight you have to choose to really own for yourself again and again. For it means being willing to revolt in the face of every system that decides some human beings are worth more than others.

“The great miracle for Auden is the moment when you choose to ‘love your crooked neighbour with your crooked heart’. When we do, we image God, who Auden says, ‘numbers each particle … by its Proper Name’. God is the very opposite of indifference. God is not like an algorithm. Great poetry and literature, Auden wrote, ‘makes nothing happen’, but it does extend our knowledge of both suffering and love, and by doing so makes all the more urgent the choice that lies before us, to actively choose to inhabit a more genuinely human world.”

The portrait of Boxer, the steadfast and loyal horse, is Ralph Steadman’s illustration for the 50th anniversary edition of Animal Farm.

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

(Dylan Thomas)

Rage seems an apposite response
to pandemic
It’s palpable in the air
Seething not so gently
just under the surface

If only we could harness
the energy of rage
allowing it to carry us onward
into that “new normal”

Harnessing the energy
to raise up “the least of these”

Harnessing the energy
to continue to honour
our “unskilled workers”
who became our heroes.

Harnessing the energy
to properly fund our NHS
and our social care

Harnessing the energy
to keep our streets
free of  the homeless
by providing adequate resources

Harnessing the energy 
to care for refugees and migrants
by treating them as brothers and sisters
who merit compassion

Harnessing the energy
to refuse to be governed
by out of touch
beyond reach politicians

Harnessing the energy
to put our faith into practice
by shaking up our ancient creeds
infusing them
with transformative covenants
of justice and love
that spill out of closed buildings
and flow like lava 
through our neighbourhoods
gathering the energy of rage
to usher in
the radical kingdom of God.

Do not go quietly
into the new normal.

Rage, rage
against all that diminishes
the breath
of the Spirit of God

And may our rage 
be pregnant with potential
for the healing of all Creation.

Thanks to Liz Crumlish for permission to use her blog, which was originally published under the title “Harnessing the rage”.

Coming up …
  • 25 July 2021 11:00 am Morning Worship
  • 26 July 2021 7:00 pm Ecumenical Study Group (Zoom)
  • 29 July 2021 10:30 am Bible Study on Hebrews
  • 1 August 2021 9:30 am Sung Eucharist

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