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.
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?”→
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.
The 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.
The 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.
A reflection on the interplay between the natural and the sacred, originally written for Marlborough’s Tower and Town May edition
‘Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty’ – John 4.10
In the human quest to find extra-terrestrial life – life outside the earth –, the search for water has been crucial. NASA’s motto in the pursuit of extra-terrestrial life has been “follow the water”. Why? Because, as far as we know, liquid water is essential to all life on earth, and therefore we assume it may well be essential to life outside our planet as well.
Given the fact that we cannot live without water, it is no surprise that in most world religions, including Christianity, water has a major role to play. It can be a threat: both gods and creatures have been thought to hide in seas and lakes, representing the dangers that people experience on sea. The power of gods and God has been shown in having power over water, such as the parting of the Red Sea and Jesus calming the storm.
The previous reflections for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday have focussed very much on who we are in relationship, who we are as members of a group, of a collective. It is very much the pattern of Holy Week, when the crowds welcome Jesus into Jerusalem; when the disciples have their last meal with Jesus and when people gather around the Cross.
However, the encounter on Easter morning, at least in John’s version, is very much an individual encounter between Mary and Jesus. Early in the morning, while it was still dark – we hear – Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb. Maybe she has taken the remainder of her costly oil to anoint the body of Jesus after his death. However, when she comes to the tomb, she finds it empty. Mary runs to the disciples; Peter and presumably John run to the tomb and they see it empty as well. They see and believe.
Only a very short reflection and a poem today, this day of silence between Good Friday and Easter Day.
When I went out for a walk on the downs this morning in the glorious sunshine, there was one thing I really wanted to do: I wanted to say ‘thank you’. For what precisely, I didn’t know; to whom precisely, I didn’t know either. The closest I may get in articulating it, is wanting to say thank you for the gift of life, to say thank you to the God who created and redeemed me. And that is what I look forward to celebrating once more tomorrow.
The following poem by E.E. Cummings puts this sense of gratitude into words:
i thank You God for most this amazing
day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes
(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun’s birthday; this is the birth
day of life and of love and wings: and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)
how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any—lifted from the no
of all nothing—human merely being
doubt unimaginable You?
(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)
May we place at his feet all that we have and all that we are Good Friday 19th April 2019
Could we have done anything to stop it? I wonder if this was a question on the minds of those who stood and watched the Crucifixion? Did Peter ask himself ‘What if I had not betrayed him?’ Did Mary feel not only the pain only parents can feel when losing a child, but also doubts and guilt? And the by-standers, who had shouted ‘Crucify him!’, did they regret their outspokenness? Maybe there was a little comfort in what Jesus had told them already: that he had to suffer and die, but even then: was it not for us, because of us that this was the sacrifice he made?
Eternal God, in the cross of Jesus we see the cost of sin and the depth of your love: in humble hope and fear may we place at his feet all that we have and all that we are, through Jesus Christ our Lord.
I wonder also what we feel when we stand at the foot of the Cross on Good Friday. Could we have done anything to stop it? Do we feel complicit in Jesus’ death, in some way responsible?