Category Archives: Lent

19 June: Wickedness takes the short cut

At the Last Supper scene from Strasbourg Cathedral, Judas is to the right of centre, grasping his moneybag. He has just received the piece of bread from Jesus, to the left, who has his hands clasped, his eyes turned heavenward. How did the betrayal that is about to occur come about? It doesn’t feel to me like just one more venial peccadillo, but perhaps it did to Judas. Maybe the venial peccadilloes, his stealing from the common purse, paved the way for the big one.

Here is an extract from Boswell, reporting a conversation on Skye in which Dr Johnson, The McCleod of McCleod, Rev Donald McQueen, and Boswell himself discussed human wickedness.

JOHNSON. ‘Cunning has effect from the credulity of others, rather than from the abilities of those who are cunning. It requires no extraordinary talents to lie and deceive.’

This led us to consider whether it did not require great abilities to be very wicked.

JOHNSON. ‘It requires great abilities to have the POWER of being very wicked; but not to BE very wicked. A man who has the power, which great abilities procure him, may use it well or ill; and it requires more abilities to use it well, than to use it ill. Wickedness is always easier than virtue; for it takes the short cut to every thing. It is much easier to steal a hundred pounds, than to get it by labour, or any other way.

‘Consider only what act of wickedness requires great abilities to commit it, when once the person who is to do it has the power; for THERE is the distinction. It requires great abilities to conquer an army, but none to massacre it after it is conquered.’

From “The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D.” by James Boswell.

More than once I have heard a preacher say that Judas was taking a short cut, contriving a showdown with the authorities that Jesus would surely win, a coup d’etat. But Jesus was not one for political short cuts; he was not a lazy thinker. Thirty pieces of silver could have been earned by hard work or by betrayal. Perhaps the moment of truth for Judas came as he kissed his master, and suddenly realised how wrong a turning he had made.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Lent

31 May: How green are your blisters?

It’s another of those social sins where we are implicated willy-nilly; it’s as if someone sins on our behalf whether we like it or not. When we can avoid the willy-nillyness of life and be conscious of what we are doing, that’s what we should do.

Some years ago I was correctly told to stop trying to recycle the blister packs from medicine tablets and capsules as they could not be processed. Well, think again Mr Turnstone!

Since February 2021, TerraCycle, an international recycling company, has been working with Superdrug and other pharmacies to recycle these complicated little packages, earning a contribution to charity.

There are other schemes that benefit chosen charities directly; the churches of Saints Dunstan, Mildred and Peter in Canterbury are collecting them for Marie Curie Cancer Care, but Superdrug is in the city centre.

No excuses now for not recycling your blisters!

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Laudato si', Lent

11 May: Honour the LORD with your wealth.

 
“Honour the LORD with your wealth and with the first-fruits of all your produce; then your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will be bursting with wine.” Proverbs 3:9.
 
Christ Jesus would have approved of this mosaic in Broadstairs Baptist Church. The grapes, the wine, the bread could all be from very close by. There are still fishing boats working nearby, farms growing wheat and ever more vineyards as Kent’s climate favours the grape more and more. The mosaic brings to our consciousness the reality of where this church is sent.
 
The mosaic is honouring the Lord with the first-fruits of  the local community; presumably the Church used its collective wealth to commission the work from a local artist. A mosaicist used to live in our street, not so far away.
 
The church uses its wealth, in terms of the church, hall and meeting rooms, not only to worship and chat about the congregation’s business, but also open these up to local groups. They are conscious of other people’s needs and strive to meet them. I used to teach there: groups of teenagers who had fallen out of school for different reasons and who would not have been wanted in other halls because of occasionally unpredictable behaviour. But there was always something else going on in the building at the same time, or following on from us: playgroup, rehab exercises for older people, drop-in sessions of various sorts. 
 
Thank you to Broadstairs Baptist Church for honouring the Lord by sharing your wealth! 
 
In these last days of Lent, we can remember people like Mary Magdalene, Johanna, Susanna, and Mrs Zebedee who supported Jesus with their wealth, not forgetting Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea who provided Christ’s tomb, newly carved from the rock. Am I supporting Jesus with my wealth of money, time, abilities?

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Lent, PLaces

10 May: What do you see in the mirror?

It used to be one of the standard questions in those short celebrity interviews: Who (or what) do you see in the mirror in the morning? Perhaps it’s been quietly dropped because interviewees came to expect it and had answers ready, answers to sell their new film, tv show or book.

Saint James would have us look into a mirror, a looking glass. We like mirrors, here at Agnellus’, even when they make us look ridiculous.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if a man be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man beholding his own countenance in a glass. For he beheld himself, and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was.

But he that hath looked into the perfect law of liberty, and hath continued therein, not becoming a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work; this man shall be blessed in his deed.

James 1:22-25

The mirror to see ourselves in is the ‘perfect law of liberty’: how do we use the liberty we have been given, or would have been given if our hands had not been clenched, deep in our pockets? We will never reach the day’s end without refusing or abusing our liberty in some way, great or small, but we can look into the mirror of liberty, and with our God-given freedom, do better tomorrow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Lent, Mission

9 May: Incidental Deviations.

Sister ought to be able to walk ‘quite straight’ here, but look, there is mud on the road, and the asphalt is cracking up …

John Conington wrote this paragraph to describe the challenges of translating from Latin into the English of his day (he died in 1869).

“Still, where it is almost impossible to walk quite straight, the walker will reconcile himself to incidental deviations, and will even consider, where a slip is inevitable, on which side of the line it is better that the slip should take place.”

From “The Satires, Epistles, and Art of Poetry” by Horace, Tr. John Conington.

Conington expected to miss the path, to fall short, to slip or trip, but he was prepared for that, prepared to get up and go on again, scratched, besmirched, weary; metaphorically speaking. Let us ask the Good Shepherd to guide us along the right path, and to give us the comfort of his crook and staff, as we make our incidentally devious way through Life.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Lent, Mission

21 April: Safe.

2009-05-04 20.01.43 (800x532)

We don’t tend to recycle old posts but this one, from January six years ago, follows well yesterday’s reflection by Emily Dickinson on the forgotten grave. Mary Webb looked forward to her own grave as a haven from the sufferings of this life, especially from the unkindness of other people. Her face was disfigured by Graves’ Disease which can now be successfully treated and she was sensitive about this.

We began the post with another woman’s death and burial.

We buried our friend Mrs O a few days ago. She had a good send-off, the church comfortably full. I was comforted an hour earlier, to see a rainbow, arched over her house as the rain drifted away into the North Sea. A promise that she will not perish! And the thrush and blackbird were singing.

But here is Mary Webb, feeling downhearted as she writes. May she rest in peace and rise in glory!

‘Safe’ by Mary Webb.

Under a blossoming tree
Let me lie down,
With one blackbird to sing to me
In the evenings brown.
Safe from the world’s long importunity –
The endless talk, the critical, sly stare,
The trifling social days – and unaware
Of all the bitter thoughts they have of me,
Low in the grass, deep in the daisies,
I shall sleep sound, safe from their blames and praises.

That is one of Mrs Turnstone’s favourite poems.

https://wordpress.com/post/willturnstone.wordpress.com/832

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Lent, poetry

16 April: Void


 VOID


 Great streets of silence led away
To neighbourhoods of pause;
Here was no notice, no dissent,
No universe, no laws.
 

By clocks ‘t was morning, and for night
The bells at distance called;
But epoch had no basis here,
For period exhaled.”

(from “Poems by Emily Dickinson, Three Series, Complete”)

Emily captures some of the bleakness experienced by the disciples after Good Friday. No universe, no laws, no certainty, after Jesus exhaled his spirit with his last breath.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Lent, poetry

Good Friday gifts

The solemnity of today will be overwhelmed by the joy of Easter, but there were tokens of the coming feast for those with eyes to see.

Before the sun was properly up I was looking into the back garden. What was that hunched figure inspecting the flowerpots? A hedgehog woken from hibernation and going about its business, ridding us of a few pests. That was enough to mark the day.

After the prayerful L’Arche Good Friday service some of us found our way to the Glebe garden, where a shrine had been built of willow wands. If this was intended to be a place of quiet reflection it soon became a meeting place for people who had barely seen each other during covid; another hint of the resurrection to come.

Flitting across the garden was a brimstone butterfly, a caterpillar died but transformed into a creature of beauty no less wondrous for being totally expected.

Then to my task of adorning the church porch. The Easter garden needed the finishing touches, Mary’s jar of ointment and the grave cloths hidden behind the door (a scallop shell to be rolled to one side). What concerned me was the Easter lilies. We had some in flower the last two years, but it had been touch and go this time. Since today was warm, the first flowers were unfurling to be bright and white on Easter Day.

In the evening down to the Cathedral to hear Faure’s Requiem, with its upbeat finish: May the Angels welcome you to Paradise, may the martyrs meet you and lead you to the Holy City of Jerusalem.

Walking home from the Cathedral in the glowing dusk, under the Easter full moon, three blackbirds, singing their hearts out, serenading the new life hatched in their nests. They will be busy tomorrow, as no doubt will I, but by these tokens and by other sure evidence I know that my redeemer liveth.

Leave a comment

Filed under corona virus, Easter, Interruptions, L'Arche, Lent, PLaces, Spring

Meat free Lent XXXIV: Squash with Walnut Stuffing

Dr Peter Toon – St Stephen’s Church. This is the final meat-free recipe this Lent, and surely one of the best; I reckon it would work well with foraged chestnuts from the freezer.

1 Butternut squash 
I onion, chopped or leeks and/or garlic 
Walnuts 
Dried thyme or other herbs 
Ground almonds 
Tomato or pesto sauce

·       You often need to add an egg to bind the stuffing in squashes, but there is so much flesh in a butternut that you can mix some of it with the other ingredients to bring the stuffing together.

·       Cut the squash in half lengthways and remove the seeds. 

·       Microwave with the cut side down until the flesh is soft (this usually takes about 7-8 minutes but depends on the size and ripeness of the squash, so do it in 2-3 minute bursts and check in between).

·       Using a spoon with sharp edges, scoop out the flesh from the centre of the squash, leaving about 1 cm all round the outside next to the skin. Put the removed flesh in a bowl.

·       Finely chop an onion and fry it in oil (walnut oil is ideal if you have it).  You can also use leeks and/or garlic as an alternative here.

·       Once the onion or other allium is soft, remove and add to the flesh in the bowl.

·       Finely chop and then gently roast walnuts in the oil. Add to the mixture in the bowl.

·       Add a spoonful of dried thyme or other herbs.

·       Mix well. If the mixture is too wet add ground almonds at this point. The mixture should hold together and not be too damp – similar to a soft dropping cake mix.

·       Spoon the mixture into the squash halves.  The preparation up to this point can be done in advance and the prepared squash kept in the fridge for a day or so until needed.

Bake for 40 minutes at 180 C.

Serve with a tomato and pesto sauce (white sauce to which has been added a spoonful of tomato paste and a spoonful of pesto).

I have not given quantities, as this depends on the size of the squash.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Unity, Justice and Peace, Lent

14 April, Maundy Thursday: Those who lead must serve

Pope washes feet of 12 prisoners on Holy Thursday

We follow Pope Francis to prison on Maundy Thursday.

In 2018, during the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, Pope Francis washed the feet of twelve inmates in Regina Coeli prison. He told the prisoners that Jesus had washed his disciples’ feet to show that leadership is service: “Those who lead must serve. If so many kings, emperors, heads of state had understood this teaching of Jesus and done this instead of giving orders to be cruel, to kill people, how many wars would not have happened!”

Pope Francis urged the prisoners not to give up hope for there always is the possibility of forgiveness; and even though society discards them, Jesus says: “You are important to me.” And he “takes a risk on each of us.” 

Francis  got down on his knees to wash the prisoners’, among them two Muslims and a Buddhist. He has in the past washed the feet of non-Christians; and the feet of women. 

“I am a sinner but come as Christ’s ambassador,” the Pope told the prisoners. “When I wash your feet, remember that Jesus never abandons you and he never tires of forgiving you.”

At the sign of peace he urged those present to use it as a moment for reconciliation and to think of “those who do not love us” and the people “we would like to take revenge on”.

(CNS photo/Vatican Media) 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Justice and Peace, Lent, Mission