A rare treat this afternoon... time to sit with a book or two. I need to read one, and re-read the other, of these two ahead of the final services in our series on 'Aspects of Spirituality'. So far, I am really enjoying myself and learning some new stuff.
The embargo is lifted, the letter is published. You can read it here.
You may not agree with this stance, and of course I respect that. I just hope that we can all 'agree to disagree', if necessary, and focus on living out the Great Commandment in the way we each feel is best.
I try to avoid party-politics on this blog, but the (not unexpected) result of yesterday's Conservative & Unionist Party leadership contest, which de facto imposes a new Prime Minister on the UK (for the second time in three years, as it happens) has given me much cause for concern and pause for thought.
It's that little thing that Paul says to Timothy, and hence to us all, about praying for "kings and all those in authority, that we may life peaceful and quiet lives..." It's an injunction I take seriously, and it's an injunction formally expressed in the published prayers of, among others, the Church of England (guaranteed to wind up some Baptists who confuse 'separation of church and state' with 'keep out of all matters political, even in your prayers')
So I was grateful for some repsonses in the public arena, in the light of the Pauline injunction, such as those on Twitter from JPIT (here) and BUGB (here). Neither of these organisatons is 'pro-B,' be that Boris or Brexit, but they are pro-prayer. And then there is this from Archdruid Eileen, one of my all time favourite bloggers which is all at once clever, creative, challenging and even a little bit funny.
Gracious God, you gave freedom to humankind, and permitted us to establish our own structures for the ordering of society.
That freedom carries responsibility that can sometimes seem overwhelming, and it is easier for us simply to let others get on with it.
Whatever we think or believe about the current political situation - and we think and feel plenty - there will be others who follow you who think and believe otherwise.
And so what can we - what can I - pray.
For political leaders: that you would grant them wisdom, compassion, integrity, openmindedness and humility
For ourselves: that we would live out the prayers we pray, speaking up and speaking out wherever, and whenever that is needed - even if it's difficult, scary or risky - and to do so with gentleness, humility, integrity, openmindedness, hopefulness, faith and love.
I'm planning to use one of my all-time favourite hymns on Sunday, and reverting one of the lines to original form because the word it uses is, in my opinion, especially wonderful. The word (which is replaced by 'in faith' in the newer versions of the hymn) is "darkling". Acording to the online dictionaries, it means simply "in the dark" but that's not all that helpful, and I don't think is the intent in the hymn.
As part of our English Literature studies at school we 'did' a lot of Thomas Hardy, both prose and poetry. Among his poetry was this, 'The Darkling Thrush'...I leant upon a coppice gateWhen Frost was spectre-grey,And Winter's dregs made desolateThe weakening eye of day.The tangled bine-stems scored the skyLike strings of broken lyres,And all mankind that haunted nighHad sought their household fires.The land's sharp features seemed to beThe Century's corpse outleant,His crypt the cloudy canopy,The wind his death-lament.The ancient pulse of germ and birthWas shrunken hard and dry,And every spirit upon earthSeemed fervourless as I.At once a voice arose amongThe bleak twigs overheadIn a full-hearted evensongOf joy illimited;An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,In blast-beruffled plume,Had chosen thus to fling his soulUpon the growing gloom.So little cause for carolingsOf such ecstatic soundWas written on terrestrial thingsAfar or nigh around,That I could think there trembled throughHis happy good-night airSome blessed Hope, whereof he knewAnd I was unaware.
I would have been about 14-15 when I first came across this poem, and the thrush who sang hopefully into the gloomy darkness. So around the same age as when I encountered the hymn we'll be using on Sunday. For me, 'darkling' in the hymn doesn't just mean 'in the dark' but rather, 'hopefully into the dark' or 'hopefully into the unknown'... it has a sense of courage and determination even when the context could all too easily become overwhelming.
It is certainly the case that God works in mysterious ways, and no more so than in the past few days.
On Sunday, we explored 'The Compassionate Life' - or social justice spirituality - and one way or another I've found myself 'putting my money where my mouth is" in a number of ways.
As part of my office declutter, I culled the vast majority of my craft stuff, and a fair amount of stationery, something that felt right to do at this time. Yesterday someone collected that huge stash of stuff and took away. Already someone has said that their prayers were answered to receive a small proportion of that stuff. Yes, that makes me feel good (it's nice to be able to do things like this) but it also made me have a little 'hmm' moment because of the timing. Lord, you sometimes speak in spontaneous desires to get rid of stuff...
This morning an email landed in my inbox, inviting me to sign something (currently embargoed) that is very public and overtly political... which, given Sunday's service, well, hmm... Again, the timing... I set the service theme before I could have known how things would emerge over these months.
It's not that I think God neatly lined up all the timings, rather I think that God made me alert to things that otherwise I might have let slip past or shied away from, because it just so happened that the timings coincided.
So, whether its the craft stuff, or the signature on a letter, or any of the other 'hmm' moments that may yet arise this week, somewhere in it all God is active.
Oh, and yes, we're singing the song 'Lord you sometimes speak in....' this Sunday coming.