Being great, or too much pressure?

It is exam time again, and  that there is a lot of pressure on many young people. Not just to do well in exams, but also to make the most of those last few sports matches of the year. For some, it will mean try to catch up with work not done at the start of the year, and for others to achieve the ambitious target, which you or your university of choice has set, towards which you have worked for months.

exam

Those pressures are good to some extent, because they help us get the most out of ourselves. It may motivate us to get up a bit earlier, or to make the most of the hour before prep. But it can also come too much, when it becomes hard to sleep at all, or hard to see any enjoyment in what you are doing. Continue reading “Being great, or too much pressure?”

Job: Our limitations

The second reflection on the nature of friendship looks into the fact that even our closest friends have their limitations, just as we ourselves do.

jobThe story of Job is familiar to many, and has been seen an attempt to answer the question of why there is seemingly purposeless suffering. On the surface, the narrative looks like a simple story, in which Job is a pawn in the eternal battle of Good and Evil. However, there is much more to be said, and for example Eleonore Stump gives an excellent in-depth exploration of the theme of suffering in Job in her book Wandering in Darkness.

In the following, I would like to turn our focus away from Job himself towards his friends: Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar. When they hear that Job is struck by suffering, together they go and try to console and comfort him – indeed the sign of a true friend. Before anyone says anything, they sit together in silence for seven days and seven nights, and maybe they should have left it there. Job himself is the first to speak. Although he curses the day that he was born, he does not blame anyone for his misery: not himself, nor God. Although he is looking for an explanation, he does not find fault: he maintains his own innocence, but doesn’t hold God responsible either.

Continue reading “Job: Our limitations”

The way of truth, life and love

Sermon St Mary the Virgin, Calstone, 19th May 2019
Fifth Sunday of Easter: Acts 11.1-18 & John 13.31-35

visionI remember a Church meeting a few years ago, in which there was a disagreement over the right course of action. I don’t quite remember what the conversation was about, but maybe it was something rather trivial like the colour of painting, or maybe more precisely, the shade of white we were going to use to paint the church hall. It was clear it was hard to find a way forward as too many people had a too passionate opinion about the matter. Until one person said “Well, I have prayed about this and we need to go for ivory white.” So, the decision was made: it is hard to argue with God’s word.

Maybe on a first reading, we are left with a similar feeling about Peter’s vision in the Acts of the Apostles. In the early days of the Church, the question whether Gentile converts had to follow the Jewish law, including circumcision and the avoidance of certain unclean foods, was hotly debated. Some Church leaders, such as Paul, felt that faith in Jesus Christ alone was enough to obtain salvation, whereas others placed a greater significance in the adherence to the law of Moses. Peter, being a Jew himself, may have been one of them.

Continue reading “The way of truth, life and love”

Jacob: Never let me go

The first post in the series ‘Friends’, reflecting on the nature of our friendships.

Jacob and the Angel 1940-1 by Sir Jacob Epstein 1880-1959
Jacob and the Angel, Sir Jacob Epstein 1940-41; © The estate of Sir Jacob Epstein

I am sure that I am not the only one who at times has tried very hard to push away those who care about me most. Usually through frustration about my own short-comings, I have tried to push others away, often successfully, but not always. There have been some remarkable people who were not willing to let me go, not willing to give up on me, no matter how hard I tried. And I have realised, these people are my friends.

It brings to mind the famous story of Jacob wrestling with the angel (Genesis 32.22-30). In the story it seems Jacob who is not willing to let go of the figure who is wrestling with him: “I will not let you go, unless you bless me”, we hear him saying. I wonder, however, who is really holding whom? I suspect Sir Jacob Epstein’s rendition of the story is truthful in the sense that it is ultimately the angel embracing Jacob, who seems rather helpless in this statue. Continue reading “Jacob: Never let me go”

Friends

In a series of blog posts over the next few weeks, I will be exploring the nature of friendship, seeking to be drawn deeper into  the friendship offered to us by God through Christ. Through examples from experience and Scripture, we will hopefully discover how we can better recognise the gift of friendship in those whom we meet and in the relationships that make up our common life. The series will start with the story of Jacob wresting with an angel, reminding us that true friends will never let us go.

 

Tell us plainly

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Easter
Acts 9.36-43 & John 10.22-30

How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.

Good ShepherdI wonder what you think about the question above; a question that the Jews ask Jesus in our Gospel reading today: is it an unreasonable request? Or is it a question we have asked ourselves at times too? If God exists, why doesn’t he show himself a bit more clearly? It is a question I often hear my pupils asking when we speak about the possibility of the existence of God. Their argument is fair enough: if God is all-powerful and all-loving, why doesn’t he show himself, why does he allow suffering in the world? It is an age-old question, and I don’t think that there is a completely satisfactory answer to it. For me, Jesus’ reply to the Jews this morning may point in the direction in which we may start to look for an answer, but not without difficulty.

Continue reading “Tell us plainly”

Before and After

A reflection for the Easter season

empty tombThe news over Holy Week and Easter was dominated by two devastating events: the fire at the Notre Dame and the horrendous Easter Day shootings in Sri Lanka. Now, at the beginning of May, both these events seem to have disappeared almost completely from the news headlines. On one level, this is understandable, as there is not much more news to report. However, it also makes us realise how quickly major events disappear to the background, unless we ourselves have been personally afflicted. Particularly when tragic events involve a loss of life, the lives of those who are left are changed forever, but for many others life carries on as before.

Continue reading “Before and After”