|Pen and Ink Reflections||
One of the wonderful things about many Jewish people I have met is their capacity to wrestle with our human experience and ideas of God. They just do not settle for simplistic answers, especially when it is comes to the really big human questions of hope and suffering, life and death. Indeed there is a famous saying: ‘ask two Jews, get three opinions.’ Now, of course, this, can occasionally lead to a certain stubbornness and unnecessary conflict. It points us however to the very heart of biblical religion, especially as we find it in the Hebrew Scriptures. For the God of the biblical tradition is very much a God with whom to wrestle. We see this, not least, in the book of Hosea, from which we hear again today. Indeed, the God whom Hosea reveals is very much a God wrestling with God’s own compassion, very much as a parent wrestles with their own hurts and hopes for their child. This is the deepest, most mysterious, heart of love, and it is into this kind of love we baptise Margaret Rose today…
Jesus 'was praying' - this is the first thing in today's Gospel reading. If Jesus himself prayed, whatever makes us think that we can get along without praying?! Prayer is all about our relationship with God, and like any relationship it needs time and nurture. The question sometimes is ' what kind of nurture'?...
When I was a child I was a member of the Tufty Club. Quite possibly I still am. I’m not sure the membership ever really lapses. Certainly almost every child of my generation in the UK was encouraged to be a member. For Tufty (or Tufty Fluffytail to give him his full name) was the brainchild of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. He was, and still is, a squirrel created to tell stories and messages and be the emblem for the road safety of children. So all kinds of merchandise has been produced around Tufty, including films, games, and badges. At one stage there were indeed as many as 24 500 registered Tufty Clubs in the UK, mostly based in schools. All of which was great fun as well as learning for children, not least red-headed children like me who loved Tufty’s life, colour and native character. Sadly, the native European red squirrel is today under serious threat of extinction in the UK, due to the advance of the larger, aggressive, North American grey squirrels and the continuing loss o habitats. Yet Tufty’s message – to ‘stop, look and listen’ – lives us on today. For it is good advice not only for children and road safety, but also for all our lives and spiritual journeys. It is indeed close to the heart of today’s Gospel story and Jesus’ own words for Martha and Mary…
A desert monk who once said: ‘the day will come when the world will go mad. When they meet someone who is sane, they will point at them and say “they are mad: they are not like us.”’ ‘They are mad: they are not like us’ – isn’t that part of the madness of our own world today? How often do we separate ourselves from others, or are separated from others, because the awareness of our common humanity has been lost? How badly do we need the sanity of loving our neighbour as ourselves?
As the Warumpi Band put it, in a notable song:
Black fella, white fella./Yellow fella, any fella./It doesn't matter, what your colour./As long as you, a true fella./As long as you, a real fella. Isn’t this at the heart of Jesus’ teaching in our Gospel passage today?...
When I was growing up, I was part of a church named after St Thomas, but we sadly rarely marked the apostle's saint's day. For the 21st December has often been the date for doing so in our Anglican calendar. Being so near to Christmas other things tend to overwhelm it. Admittedly, in the Easter season, we do tend to reflect upon the story of Thomas’ resurrection encounter. This is the Gospel reading in this morning’s pew sheet (John 20.24-29). It is a great story. Yet there is more to Thomas and his witness to God’s love than that and we can often miss that out. More recently indeed we therefore have the option of marking the feast of Thomas on this day, the 3rd of July, which is a great blessing. For it allows us to ponder Thomas, not only in relation to the resurrection, but also in relation to sharing God’s love with the wider world. So it is good also to reflect on the usual Gospel reading set for today (Luke 10.1-11). For Thomas is rightly revered today as a great missionary, not least across India, whose historic churches typically trace their origin to his sharing of the good news of God’s love and peace in the very early days after the resurrection. This is the mission of love and peace which Jesus entrusts to his followers: to Thomas and others down the centuries and to you and I in our own age…