|Pen and Ink Reflections||
How do you regard dragonflies? In the poem we heard earlier (As Kingfishers Catch Fire), the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins not only encourages us to be like them, but, in so doing, to be like Christ. Not everyone has always agreed however. In early colonial Australia for example, white fellas tried to kill dragonflies, just as they/we tried to kill so many other life-giving things that they/we did not understand. Those early colonialists saw dragonflies flying around and landing on their valuable horses, and they saw the horses moving and flicking their tails. So they thought the dragonflies were biting and making them crook. The colonialists were making things worse. The dragonflies were actually eating the mosquitoes and the gnats that were troubling the horses. They were life-givers, saviours even, not devils in disguise. In so many positive ways, dragonflies are thus evocative symbols for transgender people today. For, on this Transgender Day of Remembrance, we do well to attend to how bearers of light have been treated as embodiments of darkness. We do well, as our Gospel today (Luke 23.32-43) reminds us, to remember how Jesus was not crucified alone, and how others are also crucified today. And above all, we do well to affirm that it is only in recognising the light, in strange places, that we find salvation and hope for us all…
‘He told them another parable’. I love parables, don’t you? And one of the things I love about them is that there is never, ever a ‘right answer’; a single correct interpretation. Of course, that can be rather trying to those of us who like clear answers. But Jesus didn’t give any clear answers, and where he appears to do so, we can be pretty sure that the gospel writer is putting words in his mouth.
This morning we heard a little cluster of three parables – and a dodgy interpretation of one of them – did you spot them all? The wheat and the weeds, the mustard seed and the woman with the yeast. Sometimes they are known as parables of growth, especially as they follow on in Matthew’s version from the parable of the sower. But it seemed to me this week that we could call them ‘parables of patience’ – and as such very apt for our current situation, where the spread of COVID seems to be asking again and again for patience...
At times Jesus must have felt, as perhaps sometimes we feel, that he could not win. Had he followed the ascetic practices of John the Baptist he would have been condemned as demon possessed. As it is, his critics are quick to judge his joyous engagement with life as a failure of self control and an indicator of immorality. He compares the society around him with a bunch of quarrelsome children, who are refusing to enter into the dances and activities associated with wedding and funeral feasts - in other words they are refusing the very stuff of life. When we refuse to engage with the stuff of life, in all its joy and terror, we repress our emotions and become hard of heart. Then we can indeed become quarrelsome and irritable, concentrating on minor details and neglecting the big picture. Jesus is saddened when this happens, because we miss out on so much. We also end up weighed down with burdens too heavy to carry, that are of our own making, just as the Pharisees did in Jesus own day.
So what is to be done? Firstly we need to look to Jesus, who as the incarnation of God was not afraid to experience the full range of our human emotions of joy, anger, fear and grief. He lived passionately out of the very height and depth of human feeling. Now that can be pretty confronting for ourselves and sometimes others. As most of you know Jo and I have recently become grandparents. This week our daughter has been facing the challenges of an infant living into the fullness of their human emotions, expressing himself in anger and crying as well as beginning to reward her efforts with first smiles. It is quite a challenge for both of them. Yet infants as Jesus said, do indeed sometimes understand things better than adults...
Transfiguration Year A, Sunday 2 March 2014 by Jonathan Inkpin
‘In a flash, at a trumpet clash/ I am all at once what Christ is/ since he was what I am, and/ this Jack, joke, potsherd,/ patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,/ is immortal diamond
What an amazing proclamation that was by the poet-priest Gerard Manley Hopkins! (Have a look in the inside cover of the pew sheet for the full poem…) Hopkins puts into one sentence the mystery of the Resurrection and the meaning, for us, of the story of the Transfiguration which we ponder and celebrate today. Yes, today’s Gospel story also declares who Jesus is: God’s Son, the Beloved, in whom God is well pleased. Accompanied by heavenly light, Moses and Elijah, this is powerful, revelatory, stuff. Matthew’s Gospel is leaving the disciples, and all those who come after, with no doubt about Jesus’ significance. Indeed, the story also finds Jesus associating his mission with the mysterious figure of the Son of Man. Yet, as we reflected a few weeks ago, in considering Jesus’ baptism, this is a message not just about Jesus’ true identity and destiny. It is a message about our true identity and destiny too. We are also God’s children, God’s beloved ones, in whom God is well pleased. Perhaps the figure of the Son of Man is related to this. For there is still no consensus among biblical scholars about the exact nature of the person of the Son of Man. Yet most biblical references seem to stress the humanity of this spiritual figure. Sometimes too, the Son of Man is spoken about as an individual person and at other times as a corporate person, as the community who stand in special relationship with God. So again, as in his baptism, what Christ is, we are also. We too will share in the resurrection of the Son of Man. We too, will be transfigured. Just as Moses went up the mountain and was transfigured, so we can accompany Jesus up God’s mountain and be changed from weakness into glory.
How is it possible to express this astonishing reality?