|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Listening to one or two people speak during last weekend’s Synod events, I was struck again by the tricky challenges of how we use both Scripture and history to illuminate our faith and lives. For both Scripture and history can be sources and mediums of Christian assurance and hope. Yet they can also be means of unhealthy myth-making and even misdirection. In secular politics, we frequently experience the same thing: when, for example, this or that dictator is ssid to be ‘just like Hitler’, or when events are said to be repeating themselves. There are sometimes varying degrees of truth in such statements. However, the reality is that noone is ever ‘just like’ someone else, never mind like Hitler. Events do not simply repeat themselves. Even Herod, in our Gospel reading, realised that: hence his perplexity about who Jesus was. Whether we use Scripture and/or historical allusions, we have to be discerning and judicious. There is much to be drawn for example from allusions, similarities, and questions, which arise from our knowledge of the early Church and the European Reformations. That is why we study them, and why, in teaching them, I actively encourage such reflection. For, in that sense, though different, like Scripture, history is not a mere record of what has been. It is an invitation to understanding ourselves, our world, and God, afresh. It is about dynamic encounter. As with some mentioned in our Gospel reading today, is inevitable that some will seek to re-run the past or think it is simply coming alive again. Yet drawing straight lines from one era to another is not only intellectually problematic but spiritually dangerous. Christians, for example, will never, ever, quite live again in the early Church or Reformation, or any other era. Our contexts and horizons will always be significantly different, not least because we are products of that history not mere participants in its re-running. All of which brings us to the challenges and wisdom of Haggai…
for Candlemas 'Service of Light' for the City, 2 Feb 2014 - by the Revd Penny Jones
In our world we value those whose intelligence and use of logic enables scientific discovery and human advancement. But rationality is not enough on its own. We all know that there are levels of intuition and spirituality that also advance our understanding of the world. Prophets and mystics are those who perceive truth not with their intellect but with their imagination. Tonight on this feast of Candlemas our tradition directs us to re-imagine the poignant story of the presentation of Jesus in the temple. In this story we have a prophet, Simeon, who foresees what the consequences of Jesus life will be, both personally and at the level of community. We also have a mystic, Anna, who has been a celibate widow devoted to the life of prayer for something like sixty years. Each of them sees the infant Jesus for who he really is and rejoices with a joy that reaches down the centuries to this gathering tonight...