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  • Annunciation

    This stunning painting by Raphael Soyer is currently doing the rounds among Minister-types I know.  It's absolutely stunning.

  • At Home in Lent - Day 21

    Jesus as washing machine - that's the essence of today's reflection!  Not just the 'Jesus washes whiter' take on soap powder ads of the 1980s, but Jesus as the 'easy' form of salvation!  The author compares the OT sacrificial system with hand washing - hard work and not always entriely successful.  Washing machines, on the other hand, you chuck it in, switch it on and, lo, perfectly clean laundry emerges.

    Except when a red sock gets in the whites wash...

    Except when you accidentally put you favourite wool jumper in the hot wash and it emerges just about big enough for a doll, and matted, and ruined...

    Maybe I'm being mean, stretching the analogy too far... maybe the analogy is too simplistic anyway... maybe somewhere in between.

    In Philippians, the apostle tells his readers to "continue to work out their salvation..." not because it isn't assured, but because it's an ongoing process not a one-off event.  My clothes may emerge fresh and clean from the washing machine, but they'll need to go back in again all too soon. Jesus may wash whiter, but the grime of a disordered world still finds its way back.

    Cleansing God, just as I need to wash my body and launder my clothes, so I need to cleanse my soul.  Thank you for the twin gifts of confession and absolution, at the heart of which lie your promised forgiveness and salvation. Amen.

  • At Home in Lent - Day 20

    Nearly half way!

    Bathroom scales are the focus today. Along with the phrase 'you have been weighed and found wanting'

    Coming from a family where the women have a tendency to be be somewhat generously proportioned, I do have bathroom scales, and they do get used to keep on eye on my weight.  Not, I hope, in an obssessive way, but because I know that I could (and in the past have) put on a lot of weight without even realising it.  The amusing truth is that since I took up Pilates I have gained weight and lost girth as muscle replaces fat.

    The point the author makes is that the scales have one simple purpose - to tell us what we weigh. It is up to us what we then do with information.  Do we ignore it, do we become obsessed about it, do we take a responsible attitude to it?

    Scales are also an ancient, and continuing, symbol of justice.  Whether Anubis weighs a soul and compares it an ostrich feather, whether it is blind Justice herself, or whether it is the writing on the wall 'Mene, mene tekel upharsin'.  As Christians, judgement is about facing up to reality, to the truth of who and what we are (or are not) and then choosing what we'll do about it.  Confession and absolution are important parts of that - but then it is over to us to live 'better'.

    God of justice, who knows, without needing scales, the state of my soul, forgive me where I have messed up, and help me to be or to do what is needful for a more healthy, whole life. Amen.

  • At Home in Lent - Day 19

    Today's object is spectacles.  Evidently three-quarters of the world's population need to wear glasses, and 90% of over-sixities ought to be using them.

    I've been recognised as being severely myopic since I was ten.  I can remember the first time I went outside wearing glasses and discovered that individual bricks and individual blades of grass could now be distinguished at a considerable distance.  In the last few years, aging effects mean that my short-sight is less severe and some long-sight is beginning to creep in. So now it's varifocals.

    The social history bit of today's chapter is a helpful reminder that, whilst short sight would have been known about in Bible times, means of overcoming it were around a thousand years into the future.  The story of Jesus healing the blind man who, to start with could see vague shapes but no details, would have rung true for many early hearers (and would be me if I went out without my glasses).

    The focus passage today is from 1 Peter and is about spiritual or moral short sight.  If our values affect the way we see the world, and so respond to it, then we need to be aware of them.  It gives me pause for thought to think which lenses I choose to view the world, and how that affects what I see and how I respond.

    Loving God, I know that even 20-20 vision isn't enough unless it is accompanied by the right attitudes and actions.  Help me, as I view the world around me, to look carefully and closely, and to respond with tenderness and grace.  Amen.

  • At Home in Lent - Day 18

    Toothbrushes and cleaning of teeth... the links today as possibly the most tenuous yet, with references to OT commandments limiting retribution, NT challenges to those by Jesus, 'you have heard it ssid... but I say...' and mentions of 'gnashing of teeth'

    The message seems to be, brushing teeth is sensible and has health benefits, not doing so has consequences that can be painful and extreme, ergo brush your teeth.  Choices have consequences, so be careful what you choose.

    Much more interesting was the social history - seemingly 'toothpaste' predates 'toothbrushes' and the Romans even has a law prohibiting the removal of gold teeth/repairs from corpses!

    Law-giving God, sometimes your laws are bewildering, time and culture bound, and sometimes they are eternally true.  Help me to work out which are which, to evaluate the implications of those decisions, and to live wisely and well. Amen