|Pen and Ink Reflections||
Today, where I was born, it is Wor Cuddy’s Day – that is to say, Our Cuthbert’s Day, the day of the greatest of the so-called ‘northern saints’, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. Now Cuthbert lived back in the 7th century of the Christian era, but his influence lives on strongly, especially among the people of the north east of England. For, historically, Cuthbert is the official ‘Protector of the North’, not least of County Durham, in which I was born. So today, the 20th March, has become County Durham Day and the county flag flies high, with the distinctive cross of St Cuthbert emblazoned on the colours of blue and gold (see the front of the liturgy sheet). More significantly for all of us however, there are aspects of Cuthbert’s life which are still life-giving. Not least, this is in terms of a spirituality which seeks to learn from the more than human environment, of God speaking to us intimately through the land and seas - and through the birds, animals and other creatures with which we share them. For, as we hear Jesus’ parable of the fig tree today, and reflect on our Lenten themes, we are encouraged to recognise the great breach between humanity and God’s wider Creation. With Cuthbert, we are called to return our hearts to the heartbeat of Creation and to live more kindly in rhythm with it…
It is one of those lovely quiz questions, isn’t it – what do Barbados, Romania, the Ukraine and Scotland have in common? The answer is St Andrew of course, as their shared patron saint. In this COVID-19 year, that is something for which it is particularly important to wonder and give thanks. For in recent months we have, as a world together, been both divided by border closures, and united in suffering. On this Advent Sunday therefore, it is good to be reminded of our even greater connections in the immense hope to which St Andrew responded and shared with others. For Andrew’s witness is not least to the central importance of relationships, with God in Jesus Christ, with one another, and with the wider world. Today, as we celebrate the feast of St Andrew, and Advent hope, it is into such mission into which we too are called, and the joy which lies in such relational hope, beyond all the divisions and sufferings of our lives and world. Thus St Andrew should empower us to trust, and find new life, across our human borders and in the borderlands of suffering and joy, despair and hope…
Four words to sum up the heart of the Advent season we enter today. Wait, wake, want and work. Wait, wake, want and work. I hope you’re listening because there will be a quick quiz later! Chocolates to those who can still remember those four over morning tea...
‘No room, no time, no way’
As the calendar flips over and we come to Advent, life can often seem this way. It can seem as though we simply have no room in our over crowded world for the ideas so central to Advent - silence, stillness, waiting. It can seem as though the time to attend to the things of God, is eroded by demands of hospitality, celebration and preparation. It can seem as though there is no way to change this, or to change the relentless patterns of our lives and world.
Yet this is to misunderstand the nature of waiting. I don’t know about you, but waiting is not something that comes easily. It can seem easier to rush onwards, seeking the next activity or the next opportunity. The slow natural processes of change and transformation can be a challenge to those of us raised to the high tempo of modern life. Our consumer culture reflects this, taking as its subtext ‘why wait’? Why indeed?...