Collar and Tie

I was challenged in my teens (long, long ago in the late nineteen-fifties, but still seems like yesterday) for wearing a sweater to church, ‘You would not turn up at work dressed like that so why do so in the house of God?’

As I was a student in London, and under my sweater was wearing a collar and tie. You might think I had a readily available answer but in those days even students wore jackets and ties to college. I gave a mildly apologetic response.

Things have changed since then.

Within ten years I had stopped wearing a tie to church; not from lack of respect but because I noticed that when strangers came into a service they often had open-necked shirts and looked self-consciously out of place. The presence of a few others similarly dressed gave them a chance to feel more at home.

Now things have changed even more; the wearing of ties has become rarer. For many, ties are not worn even for church. I find myself only wearing them on those autumn or winter days when a scarf might be too warm. One day perhaps I might sport a tie more regularly to ease the embarassement of strangers who come dressed in what they have seen in their only attendences at weddings and funerals – or will these also follow the current fashion?

There may be worse reasons for not dressing for church:

There is a story, a parable, of a king inviting guests to his son’s wedding feast
(which carries echoes of the King who invites guests to His Son’s wedding feast).

The kingdom of heaven is like a king
who gave a wedding feast for his son.
He sent his slaves to call guests to the banquet,
but they would not come.

He sent other slaves, saying,
‘Tell those I invited,
“Look! The feast is ready.
My oxen and fatted cattle are slaughtered,
everything is ready.
Come to the banquet.” ’

But they were indifferent and went away,
one to his farm, one to his business.
The rest seized his slaves,
insolently mistreated or killed them.

The king was furious!
He sent soldiers to put those murderers to death
and set their city on fire.

He told his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready,
but those invited were unworthy.
Go into the main streets,
invite all you find to the banquet.’
They went out into the streets and gathered all they found,
filling the wedding hall with guests.

But when the king came
he saw a man not wearing wedding clothes.
He asked him,
‘Friend, how did you get in without wedding clothes?’
but he had nothing to say.
The king told his attendants,
‘Tie him hand and foot
throw him out into the darkness,
where there will be weeping and gnashing teeth!’

Many are called, but few are chosen.

Why was the guest thrown out for not wearing wedding clothes? Was he too poor? Probably – he had been called in off the street when the king’s rich friends turned their invitations down, but the king knew that and would have allowed for it. So why was he not wearing them?

He seems no better than the rich guests, disdainful of the king’s generosity. He came to eat but without bothering to wear the clothes provided. Rich or poor we can still get it wrong.

We have the King’s clothes to wear
for the wedding feast of His Son:
compassion, care, a held-out hand,
love and the acceptance of love,
the Image of God that God bestowed on Man.

Who is the bride?

The earliest account of Christ’s Great Commission,
translated literally from Mark’s Greek, is
When you have gone into all the world,
preach the Good News to all creation.

All creation is His bride,
over which as His hearers believed,
God set all Mankind to rule.

The true clothing of a ruler
is that of the Servant King:
compassion, care, a held-out hand,
love and the acceptance of love,
the Image of God that God bestowed on Man.

Quark Flavours

There are six flavors of quarks: up, down, strange, charm, top, and bottom.
Up and down quarks have the lowest masses of all,
but heavier quarks can rapidly become lighter, changing to up and down.

A quark is a many flavoured thing,
with its ups and down, and a certain charm,
yet the strangest thing,
when it’s heavy, given time,
it will lighten and be fine.

Though stuck inside a shroud
of the proton – neutron crowd,
it’s position is uncertain,
as though hid behind a curtain,
part of the cosmic harmony,
dancing with its destiny.

We think of quarks as small,
almost not there at all,
but there is still a stranger thing to say.
Its unpinned-down position,
surely here but perhaps there,
gets more doubtful as we travel far away;
yet the chance that it is elsewhere
stretches faint and far forever,
this little shrouded entity
harmonic in eternity,
of limitless potential grace
throughout all time and space,
it is this that holds the universe together.

Delirium on entering a Dark Tunnel

Darkness.
.      Swirls of colour.
.           Fear – past and present fear.
.             Whirling colours, flecking in the dark.
.                    Fear of the darkness?
.                              Or the light?
The Voice,
.     soothing, calming,
.         shadows fold, light fades,
.           one into another,
.              into another,
.                    calm, quiet,
.                                    sleep.
.     Light,
.            the Voice,
.                      movement, twisting;
.                                gibbering swirls, sound and light,
.                                                          being lifted, turned;
.                                                Heat, other Voices,
.                                      pain.
.                   fear,
.        pressure,
.     the calm, protecting Voice;
.     warmth, calm, the Voice,
.        folding, fading light
.           into dark,
.                  gentled
.                            shades;
.                                      sleep.
.                   Darkness.
.     Flecks of light,
.shapes, sounds, fear.
.Fear in the Voice, fear and concern;
.Pain in the Voice; fear in the Voice,
. yet it helps, it helps.
.      Pain, the Voice –
.         safety,
.                dark,
.         comforting dark,
.      a near and far tunnel of dark.
.      Fear, sounds, drowning the Voice,
.         burning in the darkness,
.            fearful light,
.                  a tunnel,
.                              light.
.     Pain,
.           light,
.                 brightening, not paling.
.                           Loud meaningless sounds,
.                                           painful light,
.                                                      the tunnel
.                                                                      leading on,
.                                                                                             away.
.      Loud meaningless sounds,
.         pain, loss, pain, distress;
.            the Voice crying – more crying.

“Mrs. Smith, you have a beautiful baby boy.”
.     Warmth, the Voice, comfort, safety;
.                 The Voice has loving eyes.

Emmanuel – God of Emotions

I was  given this poem by someone who wishes to remain anonymous.  Its author expresses, with great sensitivity, the most dearly held feelings about God and His love.

Emmanuel
“God with us”

God is the God of emotions
He…
Laughs when we laugh
Cries when we cry
Hurts when we hurt
He feels the pain
…and the joy

Because of this there is;
Light in the darkness
Joy amongst the sadness
Healing in pain and brokeness

“We have this treasure in jars of clay”
(2 Corinthians, 4:7)
Here is an invitation to have immense hope

Emmanuel
“God with us”

Made in the Image

Cneius Pompeius was the first of our countrymen to subdue the Jews. Availing himself of the right of conquest, he entered the temple. Thus it became commonly known that the place stood empty with no similitude of gods within, and that the shrine had nothing to reveal.
Tacitus, Histories, Book 5, chap. 9

When Cneius Pompeius entered as conqueror
into the Holy of Holies, did he find nothing there?
No Godlike image? No fragment of wonder?
no token of the invisible God?
an empty room?

Did nothing in that empty, holy shrine,
ask the great question of our common daily tasks,
those shared hopes of yours, and mine, and his;
the great perhaps that there might be
something there that speaks beyond desire,
beyond you, beyond me, beyond him,
that knew his name?

No ark, no cherubim, no tablets of the Law,
hidden or lost since that first temple,
destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar
half a thousand years before?
Did holiness remain?
or any thing?

No ark, no cherubim, no tablets of the Law,
Was that image in the seige-towers?
The battering rams?
the hand to hand facing with the enemy?

And were his gods in the victory parade,
passing like a sword through vanquished, sullen-lined streets?
Or in the holy place beyond the double veil?
The Holy of Holies of the only God of this strange race?

Pompey returned to his daily soldier round,
to his home’s embrace, his wife, his children,
and was His image there?
Did he recall in the empty shrine
that image of God seen there,
in himself,
and in the little things of home?

Two thousand years have passed, and more,
since Pompey came as conqueror
into the Holy of Holies.
Did he find nothing there?
No Godlike image? No fragment of wonder?
no token of the invisible God that asks,
as we are asked now,
in our homes, our daily tasks,
our homely shrines, where we,
wives, husbands, children,
each made in the image of God –
are asked to see,
and love and be loved.

Why do we bicker, in and with His image,
with weapons forged of words,
of sighs and glaring eyes,
with those whom we should love?
How, faced daily with His image,
should we do anything but love?

Julian update

Some of you may have wondered why I have been so slack in continuing my work on  Dame Julian of Norwich’s Shewings. Mea Culpa, or perhaps Rio Culpa! The Rio Olympics, and particularly the Rio Paralympics drew me away almost completely. There is something powerful in the human spirit that makes events such as these very compelling.

Nevertheless I am getting back on course but by a somewhat extended route. In the twenty-three years after recording her visionary ‘shewings’ Julian added twenty chapters of notes on the first fourteen. They are a perceptive and compassionate introduction to the fifteenth and sixteenth showings she received. So, rather than moving straight on to her last two shewings I have begun working, as she did, on her comments on the first fourteen. Without obviously doing so they tread a gentle path among the startling revelations to come. She sees no wrath in God, and no forgiveness either; she finds boundless compassion and love; all this in a time when about a quarter of the world’s population died of the Black Death and its after-effects. In East Anglia where she lived two thirds of the population died. To write as she did, especially as a woman, when all around were looking for cause and blame, took immense character and courage.

You will find the link at the bottom of the Dame Julian tab page or here . Her first fourteen shewings/showings/revelations/visions are linked from the Dame Julian tab. Remember, if you are taking this journey with me, it is work very much in progress and may be revised as we go along.

The Debate Of The Gaps

Can science explain faith? Perhaps, but ‘explaining’ must not be misinterpreted as ‘explaining away’. In the debate between science and religion the debaters are often separated into those discussing how we exist and those discussing why. Sometimes the religious argument is described as plugging holes that science has not yet explained – a retreating ‘God of the gaps’, but this is reversible. There are gaps on both sides. We can too easily treat the discussion as ‘either/or’.

There is a move away from the ‘God of the gaps’ to an equally erroneous ‘science of the gaps’ such as the apparent counter to Big Bang Creation theology by multiverse theories which avoid a single creation moment by postulating an infinite supply of them; or the infinite-finite source of Hartle-Hawking space which does the same by making the creation moment unattainable. It is easy to point out that neither answer the ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ question, but nor does religion. Both skate round an unknown centre.

There is neither a God of the gaps nor a science of the gaps. They are two views of the same whole.

Even if we could remove the need for God it would not necessarily remove our desire for Him. Lovers do not need each other, they want each other. Richard Leonard touches on this in ‘What Are We Doing on Earth for Christ’s Sake?’, describing a friend struggling with some religious work or duty suddenly feeling the peace of knowing God did not need him but simply loved him. If he died or did not finish, someone else could do it. Although God loved him doing it He did not need him.

Removing the need does not remove the love or the lover.