June 2013


belonging1[1]

Zygmunt Bauman believes that vagabonds or vagrants offer an apposite metaphor of the postmodernist.

What keeps vagabonds moving is their disillusionment with the last place of rest and the hope that eventually the right locale will be found to give them a long-awaited sense of meaning. But meaning is never achieved, though the wandering continues; the postmodernist is a vagabond, like a pilgrim without roots or destination, ‘a nomad without an itinerary’.

The tourist is another metaphor. The tourist lives without any commitment to, or any in-depth social or spiritual encounters with, the people he or she sees while travelling.

Ultimately it is a dehumanizing experience: ‘One thing that the vagabond’s and the tourist s lives are not designed to contain, and most often are excused from containing, is the cumbersome, incapacitating, joy-killing,  moral responsibility.’

 

 

 

 

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One very old way of depicting that shape of our destiny and humanity  is to picture life as a banquet, with a succession of courses through which one proceeds —    and also, to be sure, having a stopping point beyond which the banquet cannot be prolonged without destroying its pleasure. Both host and guest at such a banquet must be able to acknowledge limits —    recognizing that, while these limits may suffuse the end of the banquet or even the whole of it with a touch of fragility and sad­ness, they cannot destroy its goodness. Consider David H. Smith’s depiction of the good host.

A couple invite friends to dinner. Food and drink are pleasant; the con­versation bubbles. The good host is hospitable and courteous to his guest, no matter what his shifts in mood. But there comes a time when the party “winds down” — a time to acknowledge that the evening is over. At that point, not easily determined by clock, conversation, or basal metabolism, the good host does not press his guest to stay but lets him go. Indeed he may have to signal that it is acceptable to leave.

A good host will never be sure of his timing and will never kick out his guest. His jurisdiction over the guest is limited to taldng care and permitting departure.[1]

When we think of life as such a banquet, a death that comes neither too soon nor too late — neither when the banquet is justget- ting- started nor long after all have eaten their fill — may be thought fitting. It is, at least, recognizably human in a way that posthumanist visions may not be. Moreover, this picture of a complete human life, with its acknowledgment and even affirmation of human limits, will have an undeniable nobility that is displayed in patience, humility, and gratitude. Daniel Callahan offers a nice example that captures the beauty in such patience.

I once heard someone’s elderly grandfather described as a man of great energy and activity who, as he aged, had to live, because of illness and aging, within a smaller and smaller physical radius. Yet, even as that radius narrowed, first to the yard he could not leave, then to the house he could not leave, then to the room he could not leave, and finally to the bed he could not leave, he adapted to each smaller world, making of it with good cheer whatever was possible. An imaginative flower arranger I once heard said that the secret lies in learning how to work with the material at hand, not longing for flowers not available. He then demonstrated what he meant by fashioning a wonderful arrangement from roadside weeds.[2]

Thus, patience to run the course of life’s banquet need not be sim­ply resignation. It can, at its best, make possible genuine freedom even within the necessities that constrain us.


[1]      David I-I. Smith, Health and Medicine in the Anglican Tradition (New York: Cross­road, 1986), p. 52.

[2]      Daniel Callahan, The Troubled Dream of Life: Living with Mortality (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993), p. 138.

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From yesterdays sermon:

(Luke 8. 26-39 )

Christians everywhere have for centuries both colluded with power and authority and challenged it by shining the light of the Gospel on it when it got out of hand. I believe we too today are called as Christians to challenge power when it becomes self-serving or even a self-replicating system of domination and oppression. When such authorities become uninterested in matters of social justice, the dignity of the individual, equality of opportunity, and the equality of all before God, then Christians must speak out.

To see what we hear we need to name those powers. Jesus asks the demons to name themselves. What kind of power is present when we invite people and events to name themselves? What is unleashed when we find ways to allow others to name their reality rather than us doing it for them?

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The power of touch and connection

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What is the meaning of Age

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Always better together

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Living by the Word…..

Wisdom_Tree[1]

And what, in practice, does that wisdom mean for us?

What does it mean to have a listening heart and an understanding mind? I believe it means the capacity to hold together two things.

On the one hand lies the ability to incorporate intricate complexity and diversity, to comprehend profound pain and alienation, to live with serious ambiguity and tension, to appreciate enormous depth and texture, to perceive patterns in that kaleidoscope but to enjoy its myriad wonder even when a pattern is hard to see.

On the other hand lies the ability to live and speak and act from deep simplicity and unassuageable joy: to bring from the storehouse of complexity what’s timely for today.

In short, to fathom complexity yet render simplicity.

That, I believe, is wisdom. That is how we learn the secret of strength and joy.

wood anemones[1]

 

Light splashed this morning

on the shell-pink anemones

swaying on their tall stems;

down blue-spiked veronica

light flowed in rivulets

over the humps of the honeybees;

this morning I saw light kiss

the silk of the roses

in their second flowering,

my late bloomers

flushed with their brandy.

A curious gladness shook me.

 

I can scarcely wait till tomorrow

when a new life begins for me,

as it does each day,

as it does each day.

 

From Stanley Kunitz, The round

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Garter Day  takes place today and already the castle is full of purpose and activity!  King George VI reintroduced an annual service for the Order of the Garter in 1948. Up to that year services had been held irregularly.  At first glance the processions, uniforms, robes and music seen and heard on Garter Day might appear to add up to nothing more than splendid pageantry.  However sitting at the core of the day is a service of worship, a thanksgiving service, to Almighty God surrounded by the symbolism of duty and service to Country and Commonwealth.

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Anybody watching the procession of Knights of the Garter, Heralds and Officers of the Order wend its way inside the Castle from the State Apartments to St George’s Chapel will, without doubt, see impressive uniforms, flowing robes, hear military bands and, once it has begun, hear the service inside the Chapel or broadcast into the precincts. The 24 Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Garter are personally chosen by The Queen (who was made a member of the order 62 years ago by her father, King George VI).  The Sovereign and Members of the Order are representatives of the Nation and the wider world; they have achieved much in their lives in a wide variety of spheres.  Members of the College of St George (which is an independent institution physically located within the Castle walls with St George’s Chapel at its heart) have a responsibility, given in 14th century statutes, to pray for the members of the Order of the Garter.  Such prayers still take place on a daily basis but members of the College further interpret that responsibility by trying to be of service to the wider society whether by individual effort or in other ways such as through the work, study and reflection of St George’s House, the consultation centre located right next to St George’s Chapel.

The build up to Garter Day involves the work of many different people; a combination of individuals and teams from the Royal Household, the College of Arms, the Armed Services, the Police and those from St George’s all come together to ensure the day takes place as smoothly as possible for not only the Queen and members of the order but also approximately 8,000 other people in the Castle; about 900 of whom are inside St George’s Chapel.  The clergy, the musicians, the chapel staff, the cleaners, the works team, many volunteers and the office staff at St George’s have all worked together to ensure that not only the Garter service goes well but also all else that happens on that day runs as smoothly. Garter day is a time when most of those who live in the Castle entertain – so an individual’s day combines the unexpected mix of looking after and feeding guests together with the ceremonial, the practical and, most importantly, the Service.

The Chapel is very much a working church – the Garter service is one of four services that day; every day of every week of every month of every year there are a minimum of three services open to the public.  On the Sunday before Garter Day the community at St George’s comes together to renew promises made in support of the spiritual home of the Order of the Garter and the day after the departed Knights of the Garter are remembered at a Solemn Requiem.

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