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  • Goodbye Sarah Jane...

    News this morning announces the death of Elisabeth Sladen, better known to my generation as Sarah Jane Smith, probably the finest assistant Dr Who ever had; certainly the one who travelled with him during my younger childhood when Jon Pertwee steered the TARDIS and K9 was the epitome of robotic companions - 'affirmative, master'.

    I knew she had to be in her sixties, but somehow Sarah Jane was timeless - a fitting attritube for a time lord's companion - so it was a shock to hear she had died, and to know that cancer had claimed another victim.

    Yesterday's BUS Ministry Matters included in its prayer list several ministers and/or their spouses and immediate families affected by cancer, commenting on the high number.  That's the way of statistics and randomness of course: you wait ages for one then three come at once.  Given there are around 200 ministers, mostly with spouses, it shouldn't be a surprise to discover that there are currently eight 'pulpits' so affected, to say nothing of the dozens of unnamed and unknown 'pew people'.

    So, goodbye Sarah Jane, and God bless with tenacity and hope all who live daily with the reality of knowing what cancer really means.

  • Just for Fun

    My readers include royalists and republicans and everything in between, people who will avidly watch events on 29th April and those who will be seeking secluded islands to hide.  Whatever your view about the whole thing as public spectacle, these two are great fun:

    The Other Guys, St Andrews a capella group here

    Look out for the 'Rockin' Rowan' in the T-mobile advert here

    HT various bloggers

  • Tuesday of Holy Week: Ms Average

    Two stories come to mind today... from Luke's gospel the story of the elderly widow who put 'all she had' into the Temple treasury and from John's the anointing of Jesus by Mary at Bethany. What about the average woman though, the housewife and mother, the homemaker?

    For the purposes of my reflection only, since it's impossible so to do by exegesis, my protagonist is at both events.


    So, that was it, I had bought all the special food needed for the festival.  it was a busy time, as well as my own husband and three children, there would his parents and mine, my widowed sister and her two, his unmarried brother, a couple of cousins, oh yes, and my maiden aunt.  A house full!  It has been no small feat saving up for the extras that would have to be bought, carefully balancing my budget, setting aside a few shekels when I could for the extras, whilst paying the Roman taxes and the Temple taxes.  I was proud of my achievements - we owed nothing, we had borrowed nothing, we had paid our dues and had a little left over to make the festival a celebration.

    I went to the Temple to make my financial offering, having carefully calculated what could be afforded once everything essential had been paid.  I met an elderly neighbour on her way, too, and we chatted.  I looked away as she slipped her two tiny coins into the treasury. I didn't want her to be embarrassed; and, to be honest, I didn't want to be embarrassed by her either.  Quietly I dropped in my own offering - exactly what I could afford, well after setting aside a few coins for emergencies of course.

    That evening we had been invited out to a meal in Bethany where the rabbi Jesus was being honoured.  Carefully I chose which scarf to wear, which trinkets to adorn my wrists.  A tiny dab of perfume, a gift from a time when money was more plentiful.  We set off, hungry for conversation, eager to taste the food!  It was a great evening, wonderful food, flowing wine, lively conversation... and then...  Mary, it was Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus, breaking open a jar of perfumed oil and pouring the whole lot over Jesus' feet.  What a waste, I thought, just a few drops were all that was needed to tend to his dusty, travelled feet.  'What a waste' a man's voice spoke aloud, 'it could have been sold and the money given to the poor.'  A murmur of agreement spread until Jesus spoke.

    In one day then, two women had behaved recklessly and been commended for it.  My elderly neighbour had given her last mite to the Temple, making herself dependent on the generosity of others (note to self: invite her for the festival dinner).  And Mary, had simply poured out a whole bottle of perfume in a rash act of devotion.  I don't understand it, I've always been sensible, never spent more than I had, never borrowed.  I don't understand it, I've always given what was expected of me at the Temple; I've always paid my taxes on time.  I don't understand how foolishness earns approval and wisdom is overlooked.


    I wonder how we are like Ms Average, thrifty without being mean, cautious and correct, busy making sure our obligations are met, concerned with balancing the books and not being a burden to anyone.  How do we react to elderly widows who give every penny to charity and then depend on us for help?  How do we feel about rash acts of devotion?  What might we have to learn from the widow and from Mary? 

    Dare we imagine ourselves in either scene?  And dare we be honest about our reactions to what we see?

  • Monday of Holy Week: The Street Sweeper

    Holy Week always feels like a time when we ought to slow a little and 'live' with the narrative.  Sometimes I find myself wondering what the story might have looked like from the perspective of people who are not mentioned - who may not have existed. This year I offer a few, off the top of my head, starters for your imagination.

    Palm Sunday and the Clearing of the Temple are messy stories - clothes thrown into the street, branches torn from trees (or possibly taken from heaps that had been pruned), animals running amok having been liberated from the Temple precints.  I wonder what it would have been like to have been street sweeper in Jerusalem at what was already a busy time - thousands of pilgrims (tourists?) filling the city, traders selling their wares, disposable pottery cups abandoned, dropped food, lost property and so on.  Maybe they picked up a fair few coins that had fallen, unnoticed by passers by, but they really could have done without all the extra work Jesus and his crew created!

    Imagine yourself standing in the city, a broom in your hands or with a cart to collect rubbish.  How do you feel?  What do you see?  What does the coming festival mean for you?  What do you think about what Jesus is doing?

  • Back to Work Monday

    Yesterday was just a wonderful day - beginning with children running in to the Gathering Place shouting 'hosanna' at the start of an interative all age service led by the Sunday School and culminating in a united service for Palm Sunday where the hall we met in was full to capacity.  Energising and inspiring.

    And today, after nuking, it was Back to Work, hurrah!  Only a half day in the office as I don't currently have a computer at church (mine came home with me at Christmas) but it was just great to back there again.  So, a gentle morning preparing a couple of visual aids and sharpening pencils before meeting another minister for a long overdue cupcake.  It was good to catch up and even better to be back at work - I've missed the routine and the challenges and the fun and the frustrations and so on and so on.

    I need to be sensible and not work to hard or do too much too soon, not least as the nuking does seem to leave me slightly queasy, but it's good to be back to work.

    Did I mention it's good to be back at work?  Well it is!  I am so looking forward to Sunday!