Sermons - July 2020
Sermon 5th July 2020
ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET
SUN 05 JULY 2020
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me;
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
A church friend compiled a list this week, entitled:
What have I learned during the lockdown?
There’s a lot of chores, not even started.
*Shouting at the TV when the daily Downing Street briefings are on
is not good for one’s health
*Every time someone is interviewed on TV,
I spend an inordinate amount of time examining their book shelves
and commenting about their book selection.
*Reading stories to your grandchildren, via FaceTime is good fun
and gives hard-pressed parents a break.
*The planet is benefiting from silence and decreased activity.
Another church friend’s, lock down reflection this week:
“I have more time than usual, but manage to do less,
now that I am here all day and every day
without demands to get out and do something.”
Hard pressed parents or self-isolators –
there is more than one way to feel weary,
more than one set of burdens to carry.
Some, juggling the demands of young family and elderly parents.
Some, working harder now than pre-pandemic;
(Recall, the NHS worker - weeping in her car,
pleading for the supermarket hoarders to stop it, and give others a chance.)
Others, wrestling enforced idleness or lost employment.
Or the unseen burdens that are carried:
Awaiting a medical appointment, diagnosis or treatment –
for oneself, or loved ones.
Or the longing for justice, delayed or denied:
(The Civil Rights campaigner: “Sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
Or the hard road of grief – the sharpness of its immediate impact,
Softened, but never fully dissipated by time.
[Slow realisation that one must live on, without that other.)
A recognition that card carrying, faith credentials are no guarantee of immunity:
A friend who is the Mother Superior of an enclosed/contemplative order of Anglican nuns –
Related, that such are the hectic demands of community -
with the majority of the sisters, elderly and increasingly frail –
leave little time, space or energy for her own prayer life.
[ The Franciscan Thursday prayer at Alnmouth:
“Pray for those who are too tired to pray
and those who know not yet how to pray.”]
As the Anglican Book of Common Prayer puts it sonorously:
“Hear what comfortable words our saviour Christ saith
unto all that truly turn to him:
“Come unto me all that travail and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
It is a life raft invitation, a beautiful promise,
amid chill and choppy waters:
But it is not a standalone verse – it has both a preceding context
and a follow on demand.
Matthew 11 begins: Now when Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples,
he went on from there to teach and proclaim his message in their cities.
When John the Baptist heard in prison what the Messiah[a] was doing,
he sent word by his[b] disciples and said to him,
‘Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?’
Jesus answered them, ‘Go and tell John what you hear and see:
the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them.
And blessed is anyone who takes no offence at me.’
Then Jesus asked the crowds about John:
A reed shaken by the wind? Someone dressed in soft robes?
A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet;
the one about whom it is written, the messenger sent to prepare the way.
If you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come.
Let anyone with ears listen!
That is how we arrive at today’s gospel:
‘To what will I compare this generation?
It is like children sitting in the market-places and calling to one another,
“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we wailed, and you did not mourn.”
For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”;
the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say,
“Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!”
Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.’
That lovely gospel promise of rest is made in time of rejection,
of little visible success and of potential despair.
Jesus had preached in the Galilean lakeside towns Chorazin, Bethsaida, Capernaum
and it had gone badly.
That is the point at which Jesus says:
“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent
and have revealed them to infants…”
Infants – not necessarily the very young, but the little people.
It is an address to the ones who are open to him,
the wounded hearted and the seekers,
the not too proud, those who know they have reached their limits;
the burden carriers.
To these, the invitation; to these the promise:
“Come to me, all you who are weary, and are heavy laden,”
I will give you rest.”
Be sure of it. Have faith in it. Take courage from it.
But, that rest depends on a participation we may be reluctant to give.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me …
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
(We love the verse about rest; not so keen on the message of yoking.
“It tells us that burdens are shared,
that we are not responsible just for ourselves, but for one another;
our work lets others rest; our rest makes others work.” Diane Roth, Christian Century
[Returning to our church friend:]
“I have more time than usual, but manage to do less – Why?
I think I am needing to be involved with the world again.”
Being involved with the world again might take many forms – headlining or unseen.
Not many of us are the Manchester United footballer, Marcus Rashford –
harnessing media attention for the campaign to combat food poverty during school holidays. For most of us, life operates on a smaller scale.
From St Andrew’s, Newcastle this week the report – a lovely spark of reconnecting:
“A small group spent Tuesday morning trying to tame the Church garden
and cleaning the building.
We were blessed with good weather which was very helpful
in allowing the whole building to be thoroughly aired whilst we were outside.
We hope to continue with this on Tuesday next.”
This afternoon there is the scheduled Clap for the NHS, marking the organisation’s 72nd birthday.That same organisation suggests five factors towards good mental health:
Connect with other people;
Be physically active;
Learn new skills;
Give to others;
Pay attention to the present moment (mindfulness.)
Even with continuing restrictions for many in our congregations
there are ways to contribute and connect;
ways to lighten one’s own burdens and help others carry theirs.
None of us would underestimate how good it is to receive a message
or small gesture of kindness from another –
be it friend, family, church member or stranger.
For American friends this weekend marks Independence Day.
Think of the words of Emma Lazarus, at the base of the Statue of Liberty:
“Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”
This same weekend the Moderator of the General Assembly of Scotland
calls on all congregations to be mindful of the Remembering Srbrenica campaign –
it is twenty-five years on from what unfolded across the Balkans
and the massacre of Muslims at Srbrenica in particular.
“Even now, there are divisive voices in our communities,
doing their best to emphasise difference
and to exploit what’s going on in the world for their own ends.
These voices must not prevail –
which will require all people of goodwill to do more than be idle bystanders.”
A contemporary writer: “A wise person once told me if you don’t challenge lies and obfuscation, call out prejudice and racism,
you’re not a journalist, you’re a microphone stand.”
Reaching out, speaking out; big picture, or small detail;
To be involved with the world again;
We are called to let the yoke rest upon us,
that together we meet the task.
to learn from the one who is gentle, humble in heart,
in whom we find our rest.
As another enclosed, woman of prayer, medieval, Julian of Norwich declared:
“Jesus did not say: “Thou shalt not be tempested,
thou shalt not be travailed,
thou shalt not be dis-eased”;
but he said, “Thou shalt not be overcome.”
Sermon 12th July 2020
ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET
SUN 12 JULY 2020
And Jesus told them many things in parables. Matthew 13:3
This week’s E-Newsletter carries the link to a recent newspaper article;
about former St Columba’s minister, the Very Reverend Fraser McLuskey.
So many times, I have heard people remember him fondly –
Part of childhood church, conducting a wedding or baptism; comforting in time of sorrow.
The article pays tribute to his relatively short, but undeniably intense period
as a wartime, British Army chaplain/padre –
specifically, time serving with the fledgling Special Air Service/SAS Regiment.
In 1944 jumping in, behind enemy lines, to accompany his soldiers –
The Parachute Padre.
At times, during those operations in France, the chaplain, unarmed,
would wait with the medical officer at the Aid Post, as the fighting unfolded.
At times he helped out, including when Sergeant-Major Reg Seekings was hit in the head. McLuskey said: “I cannot forget the first and last surgical operation at which I assisted, however inexpertly. The bullet lodged deeply at the base of his skull and could not be removed,
but Reg, as one would expect, took it in his powerful stride
and in no time at all resumed normal operations.”
Our church newsletter, with the link to this article, went out on Friday.
The same day we received a message from a St Columban, residing in Muscat, in the Oman:
“I’ve just read the article about Fraser McLuskey
and thought I would tell you the following story, related to the article.
I was getting married on 19th November, 1983 at St Columba’s.
I was at the church, and there was a bit of a delay
as my fiancé was held up by traffic for the England-Scotland rugby match at Twickenham.
(Three of us): My best man, the minister (Fraser), and I were sitting in the vestry
when there was a knock on the door.
Three men came in and the first said, “Do you remember me, Padre?”
“I’m afraid I don’t” replied Fraser.
The three introduced themselves and chatted about the war.
(It was the SAS reunion that weekend).
After they left, Fraser said: “The last time I saw one of those men
was when I helped operate to remove a piece of shrapnel in his head”.
Our correspondent closed: I assume this must have been the same man
mentioned in The Daily Mail story.”
(Footnote: The bride did finally arrive at the Church)
The fascination of stories – connecting past, present and future (?)
Certain places – accumulate and honouring life stories,
like slow building coral reefs.
At the same time, recognition that no two people hear/respond to
the same story in identical fashion.
Parachute Padres and wedding day encounters will trigger alternatives:
Some will think about a much-admired padre and minister;
others, about their own military service:
Some may recall awaiting their own wedding day:
And others, simply will not connect with that particular tale at all.
I think it is fair to say, humans are a story-telling species;
Bedtime fairy tales, playground gossip, sporting anecdote,
Journalist enquiry, national histories, therapist’s chair, funeral tribute.
It is no surprise that faith comes and is conveyed in the passing of stories.
Scripture’s overarching epic: “The Good Book.”
A sixty-six-book blockbuster, of a God who creates, loves
and stays faithful to the world, and all that is in it.
For would-be disciples, its most important chapters, entitled Christ.
Weaving together the story of the life Jesus lived, and the stories Jesus told.
Parables – engaging/sparking imagination, cajoling conscience,
expanding horizons, issuing warning, and summoning to serve.
A man went out to sow….
The contemporary Irish poet Liam Ó Comáin, in his poem, The Sower,
Meditates on the sight of an early morning hand sower
broadcasting the seeds in pre-industrial fashion.
A solitary figure silhouetted by the rising
Sun while grasping from a slung sack,
Dispersing back and forth in the
Manner of previous sowers.
But you are also an icon
Or an image of he or she
As I observed I imagined the giver
Of life scattering seeds of love into
Our hearts to grow and flourish
In order to share the means of
Reaping a harvest beyond
Our mortal time.
Seeds of love – for a harvest beyond our mortal time.
This parable – prodigal sower and different soils
commissions us to be disciple-sowers
and reminds us that we will not always meet grand success.
There will be the reality of failures and their reasons –
stony ground, shallow ground, choking ground.
The shortcomings are well rehearsed –
Easy to identify in ourselves, and others.
But the tale does not end with inhospitable ground;
bushels of abundance are where this parable leads.
The tale ends with a miracle, a riotous pay-off, a hundredfold harvest.
(Sevenfold, the scholars say, would have been a good outcome.)
That is some seed. The parable awakens us to the precious dynamite in our hands;
These seeds may look tiny, dead;
they may fall in places where they come to nothing.
In the attempt to emulate/to follow/to share Christ/to sow for love,
there will always be setbacks.
Jesus predicts, “Some of your work will be in vain, no visible harvest. But sow anyway.”
“The wisdom of letting go of the end result.” (David Donald Scott)
[Archbishop Oscar Romero:
“We plant the seeds that will one day grow.
We may never see the end results.
We are ministers not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.”]
Ultimately, the harvest belongs to God. (Isaiah 55)
“My word shall not return to me empty.
But it shall accomplish that which I purpose
and succeed in the things for which I sent it.”
Let me conclude with one more woven tale; a story about a story-teller.
I offer it, not because it scores a neat, theological bullseye,
but because it incorporates both the sorrow and the beauty of the world,
so feels worth the telling.
Some weeks ago, the office received the request for a Church of Scotland minister
to conduct the burial of a Scotsman, with no recorded next of kin.
I was told to expect just the undertakers to be present.
It transpired that the man was a member of St Columba’s.
On further enquiry, a little emerged about him –
Ex-RAF, a civil servant, an attendant at the British Museum,
a member of a St Columba’s lunch team, and Crown Court ramblers.
Not much; but I was glad that I could stand at a graveside, with at least those fragments.
On Friday morning the sun shone.
On arrival, I found undertakers, plus three others.
A Greek couple who had lived in the same block of flats
and a member of a local food bank, formed in response to the current pandemic.
In the few minutes before the burial, they told me what they knew,
and perhaps more importantly,
how much this almost anonymous man had meant to them.
He was full of stories. He loved his cigarettes.
He had apparently had a great influence on a teenage helper at the food bank –
a young Etonian pupil.
They also told me of the terrible squalor of his living conditions.
There was anger at how someone who had served his country
could have fallen so far off his country’s Rada.
As one of the mourners remarked:
“David was not the only case that the Food Bank has found.
With no next of kin, it is a deep reminder of the closeness we all have to loneliness.”
On a day that both stands as accusation
and as a reminder of what can be so very good in people,
we prayed our thanks:
For the little that is known;
and the all that is known unto God alone.
In the ancient ritual we cast earth onto the coffin – dust to dust;
David’s friend of his last weeks, threw in two packs of his preferred brand of cigarettes;
his neighbours, white roses.
It was very small, but not without dignity.
Beyond the trees traffic carried on.
This is our life; these are some of its stories.
But, as the poet observed, and imagined:
“…the giver of life scattering seeds of love
to reap a harvest beyond our mortal time.” Liam O Comain
Sermon 19th July 2020
ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET
SUN 19 JULY 2020
But the Master replied, “Do not gather the weeds, for if you did you would uproot the wheat.
Let both of them grow together until the harvest…”
If you were questioned: How good is your judgement?
Would you understand being asked:
What is my ability to make wise decisions; how well-informed am I;
what level of experience do I bring to this situation?
Or, would you hear: What is the effect/impact of your judgement?
How good is it – and good for who?
A new friend, a South Korean woman, spoke this week
of an encounter at the start of her children’s new school.
In the corridor, outside the classroom a well-intentioned teacher,
was talking to another parent. That other parent was Chinese.
There was an awkward moment as the three converged –
British teacher, Chinese and South Korean mothers.
Nothing was said directly, but the teacher’s reaction indicated
that somehow the two would automatically know each other.
After all “they looked the same.”
As the new mother said: “Do people know how far apart, our countries actually are?
How good is our judgement?
I learnt this week of the death of someone who twenty-five years ago
gave a talk in a small, town hall in North Carolina
that I still think a lot about today.
Reverend Buddy Olney was a minister of Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) –
both serving congregations and a university chaplain.
He was committed to issues of peace and justice his entire ministry –
the civil rights movement, the Vietnam era peace movement.
He was arrested in Washington, DC while protesting apartheid,
travelled to the West Bank in Israel,
and took faculty and students to Nicaragua to protest the “Contra War.”.
The evening I heard him speak, he spoke candidly about racism, his own and his nation’s.
From one of his visits to Israel and Palestine, he recounted an episode.
He wanted to visit an Arab friend in Ramallah.
He secured the documentation to enable the visit.
At the border crossing checkpoint, after searching his car and checking his paperwork
an Israeli captain advised: “If you have any trouble, tell them you are an Arab –
you look like an Arab.”
Olney made the journey and visited with his friend and family.
When it came for departure the friend escorted the American,
stopping two blocks away from the military checkpoint.
Saying farewell the Palestinian advised:
“If the soldiers give you any trouble, tell them you are Jewish – you look Jewish.”
Olney reflected on the concern for his safety that both the Israeli and the Palestinian had shown him; reminded, once again that deep within us there is goodness in us all.
Longed that they might find a way to show that same care, to each other.
How good is our judgement?
Shamima Begum now aged 20, is one of three schoolgirls
who left London to join the Islamic State group in Syria in 2015.
Her citizenship was revoked by the Home Office on security grounds
after she was found in a refugee camp in 2019.
The Court of Appeal has ruled she should be allowed to return to the UK
to fight the decision to remove her British citizenship,
Is she a dangerous terrorist, a present threat to national security?
Or a vulnerable minor, ruthlessly groomed,
a child bride traumatised by the death of her children?
How good is our judgement?
How well informed? Good for who?
Jesus, the master story teller, spins another tale;
The farmer sows the wheat; an enemy sows weeds.
When the evidence springs up, the farmhands are eager
to uproot the unwelcome growings.
“No” commands the farmer, “not yet. Wait till harvest time.
In destroying the one, you will injure the other.”
Harvest is biblical language for judgement.
Matthew is the gospel writer most concerned with a final reckoning;
the only gospel with wise and foolish virgins, the division of sheep and goats,
and today’s field of wheat and tares (weeds.)
The scholars inform us, that Matthew wrote to a mixed Jewish and Gentile congregation,
struggling to stay united under the same roof.
Perhaps the Jewish Christians, sons and daughters of Abraham,
perceived the newly arrived Gentiles, a threat to their purity.
Perhaps the Gentile Christians, viewed the Jewish Christians,
chained to the old ways, obstructing their growth.
From moral high ground, confident in their own “wheatness”
both groups eager to ask: “Master, shall we uproot those weeds?
But the master replies: “Let the weed and the wheat grow together until the harvest…”
Let them grow together.
Apparently, God does not share our appetite for the neat field,
the efficient operation, or the pure crop.
The Master does not deny judgement – there will be harvest;
nor does he advocate passivity.
To allow the growth of weed and wheat, to wait
is neither idleness, nor submission; not a call to ignore evil.
But the emphasis/command is to grow the good, not burn the bad.
“…to bless the field, not curse it.” (Debie Thomas)
Remembering whose field it is; keeping Farmer’s time, not farmhand time.
From the most watched British comedy of the last two decades, “Gavin & Stacey”,
one of the characters, the Welsh woman, Nessa often asks: “What’s occurring?”
What’s occurring seems an appropriate question for our own 2020,
with its uncertainty provoked, in part, by the continuing pandemic.
For some there is an eagerness to dive into/embrace the new normal;
an understandable desire to regain some stability/certainty.
But the parable cautions against rushing to too-early conclusions.
As was suggested this week by a wise Roman Catholic nun:
“We have not been in the desert long enough
to understand what the desert is teaching us.”
Or as another wrote: living with both wheat and weeds means
“training our eyes (like Christ did) to gaze at uncertainty, without flinching.”
(Debie Thomas, Journey with Jesus)
[Another death this week of someone whose friendship was very precious: Professor Bill Shaw – mentor and friend to generations of theology students of Edinburgh and St Andrews. Golf course, I asked: “Do you believe in universal salvation?”
“I believe in the love of God.” In his honour, another parable of the wheat and weeds.
One afternoon in the middle of the growing season, a bunch of farmhands
decided to surprise their boss and weed his favourite wheat field.
No sooner had they begun to work though, than they began to argue –
first about which of the wheat-looking things were weeds
and then about the rest of the weeds.
Could the Queen Anne’s lace remain – for decoration;
or the blackberries for sweetness, or the honeysuckle for its scent?
The boss turned up, found them arguing and ordered all of them out of the field.
Dejected, they headed back to the main farm shed, from where they could see the field.
The boss sat them down and gave them something to drink – for the day was hot.
Sunlight moved across the field.
Initially, all the farm hands could see, was the mess.
But as time passed, they began to recognise the profusion of growth –
tall wheat, weeds and wild roses.
It was a mess – but magnificent too.
When it had all bloomed and ripened and gone to seed, the reapers came.
Carefully, gently, expertly, they gathered the wheat
and made the rest into bricks for the oven, where the bread was baked.
And the fire that the weeds made was excellent,
and the flour that the wheat made was excellent.
When the harvest was over, the boss called them all together –
the farmhands, the reapers and all the neighbours –
he took those fresh harvest loaves
and after giving thanks, he broke them and shared them out –
that bread, risen from that mixed-up field.
And those who received it agreed, it was like no bread that they had ever tasted before – bread of life; bread of heaven.
Sermon 26th July 2020
ST COLUMBA’S, PONT STREET
SUNDAY 26 JULY 2020
“Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like…” Matthew 13:31
One of the pillars that has sustained London lockdown,
over the past four months, has been the steady stream of photos
sent by family members from the Isle of Skye –
where unexpectedly, but not unhappily, they have lived the last four months.
Flicking through the accumulated images
there have been seals and swans, hillside deer, coral beaches,
sunsets and moonlight.
Many of the sights are familiar, from tramping the same paths;
space and light, nourishing a sometime dry soul.
This week slightly different: as the family” bubble” has expanded.
So, the picture of a three-year-old niece splashing in the shallows of Talisker Bay –
captured in that frontier moment,
borderline of chasing, and being chased, by gentle incoming waves –
delight at entry, squeal of excited escape.
A couple of days earlier, an exultant group of adult swimmers,
in the now famous, Fairy Pools –
a stunning section of water drops and gathered pools,
where the river descends direct from the Cuillin Ridge.
Swimming water temperature – “fresh!”
Such watery recordings, coincided with back to back documentaries from TV this week.
First came Wild Swimming –
the narrator’s quest to discover the adventures and exhilarations
of swimming outdoors in lake, river or ocean.
Taking inspiration from a book entitled Waterlog by Roger Deakin
who recorded his own journeys and discoveries in search of
“following water, from rain to ocean;
seeking freedom from a lifetime of swimming lengths,
endlessly turning back on myself – like a caged tiger stalking its confinement.”
If that wasn’t enough, the BBC immediately served up a documentary
following a year in the life of London’s, Hampstead Pools,
a haven/magnet for the capital’s wild swimmers.
What was portrayed was wonderfully unvarnished, quirky and above all else, alive.
There was the humour of the lifeguard, reflecting on saving swimmers in trouble,
who often subsequently admitted that they can’t swim:
“I can’t fly, but that doesn’t mean I would jump off a cliff!”
You didn’t have to be beautiful, or young or successful, to be there.
Indeed, the water seemed to have the capacity to hold a specific place
for those with physical pain, or spiritual sorrow.
What appeared repeatedly – none more so,
than from the hardy band who swim in winter,
sometimes with ice on the water –
is the feeling of being absolutely, joyously, alive.
Fully awake; a baptismal moment:
Echo of Christ rising from the waters, heavens opened; the declaration –
“This is my child, beloved.”
I recognise, that you may be more Riviera than rockpool;
and that such chilly, awkward immersions are the stuff of your nightmares –
Is it too fanciful to say/consider, the kingdom of heaven is like…
a child dancing on a summer beach, watched over by someone who loves them;
or a New Year’s Day icy plunge, re-emerging gasping with exhilaration;
or, an idiosyncratic swimming club,
where friend and stranger find a healing pool
and strength sufficient for the day ahead?
Jesus took the stuff of everyday life, the ordinary and often overlooked,
and used it, to connect to the holy and sacred.
He understood the impossibility of ever capturing the divine in human language –
so he framed pictures in words – not a formula – “This is the kingdom” –
but the kingdom is like – leaving us space to enquire and discern for ourselves.
Throughout the gospels, a tumble of images –
lost sheep, seed sown, wedding feasts, vineyards with labourers and owners.
The gospel today - a rapid-fire volley of comparisons.
Almost too many – as if to say, don’t dwell too much;
instead be dazzled, by the number and variety of the things
the kingdom is like.
Like a tiny mustard seed —
seemingly insignificant, apparently unmighty –
yet flowering to the bush, in whose branches the birds of the air find shelter.
Or like yeast leavening a batch of dough;
Imperceptible but transforming.
Like the man who discovers the treasure in the field
or the merchant who comes upon the ultimate pearl –
and knows that there is nothing now more important;
nothing that will so fully lead to life;
nothing that will now dissuade them from diving into that pool to emerge alive!
Like a fishing net cast upon the waters –
gathering up the good and the bad.
An echo of last week’s parable of the field of wheat and tares (weeds.)
Harvest time the moment of accountability, a final reckoning.
But the reminder that it is the disciples task to bless the field, not curse it.
The disciples task to cast the net, not sift the catch.
Such final reckonings belong to God alone.
The kingdom of heaven is like…the comparisons point to different signs of the kingdom,
But are unified by an element of hiddenness;
seeds beneath the soil, fishing beneath water’s surface, sunken treasure, elusive gems.
The kingdom is easily overlooked, difficult to detect,
unless one looks/listens carefully with a trained heart or eye.
The gift of a discerning, listening heart,
which Solomon asked, and was granted,
might be the gift we require to be detectives and disciples of the divine.
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly.
What is essential is invisible to the eye.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince.
The kingdom of heaven is like….
We started with seals and seascapes from the family album.
Let me finish with a different stretch of water, an alternative animal.
In a poem, entitled Almost a Conversation, by the American, Mary Oliver
she describes studying the play of an otter in the river;
suggesting their conversation maybe unvocal but real:
Wherefore our understanding
is all body expression -
She observes his sleek swimming, the bubbles of his surface breath,
his coat and whiskers; he learns to trust her continued presence.
The poem ends:
He has no words, still what he tells about his life
He does not own a computer.
He imagines the river will last forever.
He does not envy the dry house I live in.
He does not wonder who or what it is that I worship.
He wonders, morning after morning, that the river
is so cold and fresh and alive, and still
I don't jump in.
The kingdom of God is like…?
Like an invitation;
Come on in, Christ says:
Be beloved; the water is lovely.