|Pen and Ink Reflections||
It is said that the poet Alfred Tennyson was walking one day in a beautiful garden where many flowers were blooming. Someone stopped him and asked: ‘Mr. Tennyson, you speak so often of Jesus. Will you tell me what Christ really means to you?’ Tennyson thought for a moment, and then, pointing down to a beautiful flower, he said: ‘what the sun is to that flower, Jesus Christ is to my soul.’ That, my friends, is at the heart of the feast of Transfiguration...
How shall we grow?[i] What does the story of Jacob tell us I wonder? This morning’s reading is not immediately very promising. For what is this talk of breeding, rods and runnels, spots and speckles? It is certainly a story of growth, of sorts, but what value does it have for us today? Like so many scriptural passages, it is deeply embedded in a very different world from our own: one in which manipulative patriarchs like Jacob and Laban wrestle for domination and the possession and use of land, animals, slaves and women. Admittedly this text might therefore conceivably be biblical inspiration for Donald Trump-like business, political and personal stratagems. Yet is that really fruitful growth? Even if we take this text in context of what comes before and afterwards in Genesis – notably Jacob’s several women and begetting, and God’s reminder of the promise to him, his entourage and descendants to come – we are still left with questions. What can we make of all these sheep, sex, and salvation tricks?...
Welcome everyone to the first Formation Intensive for 2017 - my first Intensive as it is for some of you. And this is the first intensive, at any rate for some time, that has a theme. It is my intention always to provide a theme for when we meet together, mostly in order to enrich our informal conversations, and our times of worship as well as to lend coherence to the whole program.
So for the next couple of days we are gathered around the theme 'How Shall We Grow?' It is of course deliberately a theme that can be taken at many levels. How do I grow as an individual ? How might we grow together as a dispersed college community that is undergoing some significant change at the present time, with new students, movements of staff and changes on the physical site? How do we grow as church, in the many incarnations of church that we represent? How do we grow as a society, and a world, at a time of much challenge? How indeed do we grow?...
Some very challenging words from the Sermon on the Mount today! How we hear them is critical. If we hear them as a more rigorous set of rules than those the Jewish leaders of Jesus day were imposing, then we might fall into despair. If on the other hand we hear them as an invitation to enter more deeply into the love of God and receive God's grace, then we can be set free.
There is a poignant little story about salt which you may have heard: a story with echoes perhaps of Shakespeare’s tale of King Lear. In this story, a king asks each of his three daughters how much they love him. The first two daughters reply with flowery words, and great exaggeration, declaring a professed deep and undying love and affection. In contrast, the third daughter, who in fact really loves him the best, replies very simply: ‘My father, I love you as much as meat loves salt.’ Well now, at first hearing, that doesn’t sound very impressive, does it?! So, thinking her disrespectful and hard-hearted, her father casts her out of his kingdom. Many years later however, when he has been disappointed by his other two daughters and their exaggerated words, the cook in the royal palace forgets to salt the food of the king’s favourite dish. When he tastes his his flavourless meal, the king suddenly realises his mistake, and the importance of his third daughter’s words. Repenting of his former anger, he welcomes her home with much rejoicing.
So what, I wonder, comes to mind when we hear the key word ‘salt’ in our Gospel reading today? What connections, and what importance do they have, for us?...