October 2010


Thanks to Stephen Gardiner here is a play with some of the words in my blog…..

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Earth, receive an honoured guest:
William Yeats is laid to rest.
Let the Irish vessel lie
Emptied of its poetry.

Follow, poet, follow right
To the bottom of the night,
With your unconstraining voice
Still persuade us to rejoice;

With the farming of a verse
Make a vineyard of the curse,
Sing of human unsuccess
In a rapture of distress;

In the deserts of the heart
Let the healing fountain start,
In the prison of his days
Teach the free man how to praise.

 

W.H. Auden

If the Bible is anything to go by, such experimental approaches to the reality and the realizing of faith will not guarantee any one of us necessarily comforting and reassuring experiences. We may be taken out of the half-light of a pseudo-faith or semi-faith into the darkness of doubt which is the ante-chamber to the reality of God. But if the experience of the people of God is anything to go by, if the life of Jesus Christ is anything to follow and to gain hope from, then we may be sure that anyone who will throw in his or her lot with the people of God and who will join with them in going out into the world’s uncertainties and into the depths of their own perplexities will find, in God’s time and not their own, that they are not alone in this journeying. Rather they will learn that they are on the way to a city whose builder and founder is God and that on this way they are given enough knowledge of God or, at least, sufficient hope that God will be known, to continue hopefully. Together we shall find growing in us a Christian faith in God which is not shaken by ferment nor defeated by frustration but rather strengthened and deepened because its source and its end lies in God alone.

In a science museum, there is one exhibit in particular which attracted long lines of children: “Face Ageing”. A child sits down in front of an automatic camera and has their portrait taken. They wait and their digitized bust appears on a TV. monitor. Then, tapping a button like a VCR remote, each child could rapidly call up simulations of what she or he would look like at one year intervals, up to the age of 69. In seconds, the computer added grotesque pouches, reddy skin and blotches to their familiar features; the faces become elongated, then wider and then saggy. Lines become more heavily rutted. Boys lost hair, hair turned grey. The heads of both girls and boys grew then shrunk.

I watched on as an idle observer, amazed at the response. “I don’t want to get old”, said one boy while another child commented, unkindly perhaps, on a friend “he’s disgusting at 42”. Thanks, I thought to myself!

Nobody stayed in the booth long. Anyone could have stopped punching the button altogether at any age, or lingered longer at a particular age. But most swept through the changes of their punitive face course to the bitter end. They came out pre-occupied, distracted, some giggling recklessly, most edging away fast, not wanting to talk about the experience, not knowing what had happened in there. I think that most of the children came away feeling that they did not want to get old.

 As Virginia Wolf says, “If you are young, the future lies upon the present, like a piece of glass, making it tremble and quiver.” Because I think it is part of a wider and interesting picture of a society prepared to face some of the cultural challenges and opportunities of ageing.

People who are prepared to reflect on age, even if, or especially if, it fills them with fear, are surely all better prepared to think about the choices that might surround the shape of ageing for them as individuals or communities.

Anger and tenderness: my selves.
And now I can believe they breathe in me
as angels, not polarities.
Anger and tenderness: the spider’s genius
to spin and weave in the same action
from her own body, anywhere —
even from a broken web.

From Adrienne Rich, Integrity

He is known also as the Holy and Righteous and Trans­cendent One who is trustworthy. This is a thing which has been borne in upon the followers of God, those who have been called to know that they are his people through all the ups and downs of their lives, through all the muddle and chaos and frustration, as well as through all the joy and excitement and hope.

If we would only let the Bible speak for itself and just read it in simplicity, we would see that men do not believe in God because this gives them the answer to the problem of evil or because this shows what pattern things fit into. They believe in God because they discover him in their hopes and in their fears, constantly being renewed when they thought they were crushed; constantly being taken to higher hopes when they thought they had achieved all there was to be achieved; and what they have discovered about the Holy One who is involved with his people, is that he is wholly steadfast, trustworthy, the God who has a steadfast purpose which is expressed through the demand which he makes upon his people to follow him.

Moreover, in discovering the holiness and the righteousness and the otherness of God, and in discovering his trustworthiness, men have discovered that he is a caring God, that his steadfastness is expressed above all in love. We are talking, therefore, about the Lord who is steadfast, purposeful, demanding, promising love. We are talking of the Lord who is our God, the Lord who is my God, just as he was the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob; the God of David, the God of Peter, the God of Paul, the God of Jesus.

Belief in God today is what it always has been. A commit­ment to a way of living based on response to a way of giving – to the way in which God gives himself to us in Jesus Christ, through our fellow believers, through that of God in every man and in the possibilities of the universe. Moreover, belief in God is experimental living and it is experiencing living. It is not being sure of a set of sentences nor of a set of facts which tell us that God exists, For if God is God then he must establish himself. If he is not God then there is nothing whatever to be done about it. But I am bound to bear witness to you that he is God – the living God who is active today to smash all the idols of religion in which men seek to start him up, and active today to meet and fulfil all the needs and possibilities of truly human living, in this world and beyond it.

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