Tag Archives: exile

8 September: Griefs

Emily Dickinson’s verses prepare us for a short series on Grief and Suicide; World Suicide Prevention Day is on 10th September.

GRIEFS.
 I measure every grief I meet
   With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
   Or has an easier size.

 I wonder if they bore it long,
   Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
   It feels so old a pain.

 I wonder if it hurts to live,
   And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
   They would not rather die.

 I wonder if when years have piled —
   Some thousands — on the cause
Of early hurt, if such a lapse
   Could give them any pause;

 Or would they go on aching still
   Through centuries above,
Enlightened to a larger pain
   By contrast with the love.

 The grieved are many, I am told;
   The reason deeper lies, —
Death is but one and comes but once,
   And only nails the eyes.

 There's grief of want, and grief of cold, —
   A sort they call 'despair;'
There's banishment from native eyes,
   In sight of native air.

 And though I may not guess the kind
   Correctly, yet to me
A piercing comfort it affords
   In passing Calvary,

 To note the fashions of the cross,
   Of those that stand alone,
Still fascinated to presume
   That some are like my own.

Emily Dickinson.

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4 July: Hope.

July 4 creeps in as fast as any other day of the year. What can an Englishman say about it and not appear ignorant or patronising?

I’ve been saving this poem by America’s Emily Dickinson for a suitable occasion. Perhaps we need hope on both sides of the Atlantic? It can be ours, if we listen for the tune without words; too many hasty, unreflective words have been spoken of late, threatening unity rather than building it up. Let us pray for unity as we listen to the Spirit within.

Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune without the words, 
And never stops at all, 

And sweetest in the gale is heard; 
And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little bird 
That kept so many warm. 

I 've heard it in the chillest land, 
And on the strangest sea; 
Yet, never, in extremity, 
It asked a crumb of me.

From “Poems by Emily Dickinson, Series Two”.

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6 April: Little things make a big difference.

We were thinking on exiles yesterday, and again so today. Thanks to the London Irish Chaplaincy for the following reflection. Note that the team do not take it for granted that a cup of tea is all that’s needed. They do their research and act on it, including tried and tested activities alongside innovations. See, Judge, Act, as my father used to say from his YCW days. Consciousness again!

Let us, in other words, be there for our neighbours, and let them be there for us. A widowed lady that I know, another exile, always likes to make a cup of tea when I do a few little jobs for her. She is then able to do a sharing, Christian deed, more important than having her roses pruned.

Although the term ‘innovation’ seems to be the buzzword, we’ve found that most of the time it’s the little things that make a big difference. For example, simply talking to someone, holding a Travellers’ forum in a prison to offer someone a voice, or writing a letter to a prisoner are the most effective ways to lift their spirit. We know people’s needs change over time and we’ve carried out plenty of research to be sure we’re offering the most helpful services. But the message is clear, that in most cases simply being a kind friend is powerful enough to change someone’s life. For us, these simple actions have stood the test of time.

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10 March: Pope Francis prays that migrants be made welcome.

A Lampedusa Cross, fashioned from the timbers of a migrant boat wrecked on the island.

Pope Francis’s prayer calls on us to welcome and reach out to the exiles who find their way into our community, into our parish. With restrictions lifting, let us be conscious that there are new people among us, people, too, who are tentatively coming back to worship after several months away. Let’s say a word or two to those we meet or end up sitting next to. Francis wrote this prayer before the war began in Ukraine which only increases our need to welcome the stranger among us.

Father,
grant the followers of Jesus
and all people of good will,
the grace to do your will on earth.

Bless each act of welcome and outreach
that draws those in exile
into the 'we' of community and of the Church,
so that earth may truly become a common home
for all people. 
AMEN.

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19 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022, Day II.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2022

Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal

Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews?”

Reflection – True Leadership
Jeremiah denounces the bad leadership of the kings of Israel who divided and scattered the people, a leadership that destroyed nations and drove their citizens into exile. In contrast, the Lord promises a shepherd-king who will ‘execute justice and righteousness in the land’ and gather the flock as one.

Only in Christ have we seen the example of a leader truly after God’s heart. In him we encounter a loving, humble servant who does not regard equality with God as something to be exploited. He comes to serve, rather than be served, and his followers are called to do the same.

Today, the Middle East is experiencing the loss of its people to exile as
‘righteousness and justice’ are becoming scarce commodities, not only there but throughout the world. Yet leaders, both in the world and in the Church, have a responsibility to bring together rather than to scatter or divide. The more faithfully Christians emulate the servant
leadership of Christ, the more division in both the world and the Church will be overcome. As we work for righteousness, justice and peace for all, we witness humbly to the shepherd-king, and draw others into his presence.

Readings

Jeremiah 23:1-6 He shall reign as king and deal wisely
Philippians 2:5-11 Who… did not regard equality with
God as something to be exploited.

Go and do
(see http://www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)
Global: Focus on a number of examples of where you consider good leadership to be evident. Try to identify the shared principles of leadership in these examples and consider how they can be encouraged in the work of creating unity.
Local: Invite a local leader to a gathering of the churches in your area to hear more about their work and to find out how you can best support and encourage them.
Personal: Find out about or refresh your memory on the circle of concern and circle of influence and consider how you can best exercise your personal leadership this week to help the cause of unity.

Prayer:
Just and righteous God,
we confess before you that we often covet worldly models of leadership.
Help us to seek our Lord Jesus Christ
not in the palaces of the powerful
but in the humble manger.
May we emulate him in his meekness
and become servants to each other
in obedience to you.
We pray in the name of Christ,
who with you and the Holy Spirit reigns forever in glory.
Amen.
Verse / Poem
It was the day of the strong men
the day when truth retired, redundant
because lies had more glitz,
and justice disabled, mocked,
in the name of a golden god
cast from melted down lives.

And then came the pestilence.
and the day of the servant
ubiquitous, anonymous,
in nursing home and ICU,
and the temple profligate with treasure
in cylinders of breath.


Questions
Global: How have you seen the Church follow Jesus’ pattern of leading through service?
Local: What Christian leader (either local or national) do you admire for the ability to inspire unity and a concern for justice? What qualities enable that person to lead effectively?
Personal: When have you been inspired to take the lead in seeking justice or working towards unity?

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15 March: Jeremiah at the Temple Gate, Gates IV.

We take up the story after Jeremiah had been witnessing against child sacrifice just outside the gates of Jerusalem. He goes back into town and through the Benjamin gate to the Temple courtyard.

Then Jeremias came from Topheth, whither the Lord had sent him to prophecy, and he stood in the court of the house of the Lord, and said to all the people:

Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold I will bring in upon this city, and upon all the cities thereof all the evils that I have spoken against it: because they have hardened their necks, that they might not hear my words.

Now Phassur the son of Emmur, the priest, who was appointed chief in the house of the Lord, heard Jeremias prophesying these words. And Phassur struck Jeremias the prophet, and put him in the stocks, that were in the upper gate of Benjamin, in the house of the Lord.

 And when it was light the next day, Phassur brought Jeremias out of the stocks. And Jeremias said to him: The Lord hath not called thy name Phassur, but fear on every side. For thus saith the Lord: Behold I will deliver thee up to fear, thee and all thy friends: and they shall fall by the sword of their enemies, and thy eyes shall see it, and I will give all Juda into the hand of the king of Babylon: and he shall strike them with the sword. And I will give all the substance of this city, and all its labour, and every precious thing thereof, and all the treasures of the kings of Juda will I give into the hands of their enemies: and they shall pillage them, and take them away, and carry them to Babylon. But thou, Phassur, and all that dwell in thy house, shall go into captivity, and thou shalt go to Babylon, and there thou shalt die, and there thou shalt be buried, thou and all thy friends, to whom thou hast prophesied a lie.

Jeremiah 19.14 – 20.6

Jeremiah was not a man for the quiet life – well, he might have been, but for the Lord’s call. He did try to evade it by saying he was too young, but to no avail; called and sent he was, so to Jerusalem he went and proclaimed the Word. And got beaten by the chief priest and left in the stocks overnight. Did he slink away with his tail between his legs? No, he spoke the Word again. The exile in Babylon was coming fast.

Jeremiah would later encourage the exiles not to put their lives on hold, but to build a new life for themselves in Babylon, as we see many of them do in the Book of Daniel and elsewhere. Am I simply marking time, awaiting the end of the exile from ‘normal life’ that covid19 has led us to?

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7 June, Heart V: you shall find him.

Continuing our exploration of ‘heart’ in the Bible. Mostly it speaks of human hearts.

In the desert on the way to the Promised Land, Moses is addressing the people on God’s behalf. He tells them the consequences of not keeping the commandments that should be written in their hearts.

I call this day heaven and earth to witness, that you shall quickly perish out of the land, which, when you have passed over the Jordan, you shall possess. You shall not dwell therein long, but the Lord will destroy you, and scatter you among all nations, and you shall remain a few among the nations, to which the Lord shall lead you. And there you shall serve gods, that were framed with men’s hands: wood and stone, that neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell.

And when thou shalt seek there the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him: yet so, if thou seek him with all thy heart, and all the affliction of thy soul. After all the things aforesaid shall and thee, in the latter time thou shalt return to the Lord thy God, and shalt hear his voice because the Lord thy God is a merciful God: he will not leave thee, nor altogether destroy thee, nor forget the covenant, by which he swore to thy fathers.

We don’t know the answer to ‘What if …?’ But perhaps we should admit that it is all too easy to serve gods that were framed with human hands: money, fame, fashion in clothes or other goods; praise from other people; revenge. And what if we set aside those quests? Would we be more relaxed, would we be happier, more fulfilled? We’ll never know unless we try. But we are promised; when thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him. It might be in a very tight corner indeed, but he will not leave thee, nor altogether destroy thee. In dark times, hold on to that promise .

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8 April, Desert XXXVIII: Enforced exile.

Adam, the first exile.

In 1943, Archbishop Spellman, a former colleague of Pius XII at the Vatican Secretariat of State, visited Ethiopia, which with allied help had defeated the Italian invaders who had overrun the country some years before and planted the beginnings of a colony there. People were sent to create a new Roman Empire in this ‘open country’.

Spellman discovered that many colonists were unhappy with their part in Mussolini’s venture. He met a family who had been exiled from their own home when they were taken as colonisers to Africa.

‘The father of this family told me that the grief he suffered in being taken from his home was renewed and redoubled, when he watched the officers drive another family from their home, to make room for him in a strange land’. And now he and his family were returning to an uncertain future.1

Who knows what became of that family, returning to a famished Italy? Their story is not so far from those of so many displaced people today, exiled even if living in a land flowing with milk and honey and all good things. ‘If I forget you Jerusalem … let my right hand wither.’ Yet who can survive, consumed with bitterness?

1 Francis J. Spellman: Action This Day. Letters from the Fighting Fronts. (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1943. p169.

Image from West window, Canterbury, thanks to SJC.

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June 15: A faithful Biblical dog.

sam-the-dog

When we were on pilgrimage we always had at least one dog with us, so we adapted parts of the book of Tobit for our midday prayers. Dogs don’t always get a good press in the Bible, but in this book the dog is a faithful companion, as was Sam, seen here. 

Old Tobit was blind and worn out. One day he remembered that his cousin Raguel was looking after some money for him in a town far away. He sent his son Tobias to collect the money. Before he left home, Tobias met the Angel Raphael, who was in disguise.

Raphael says he knows the way across the river, through the desert and over the mountain and agrees to go with Tobias. They say goodbye to Tobit and Anna his wife, and the dog follows behind them.

The first evening they camped beside the River Tigris. Tobias was washing his feet in the river when a monstrous fish leapt out and tried to swallow his foot. He gave a yell and the angel said, ‘Catch the fish; don’t let it get away.’ The boy caught the fish and pulled it onto the bank. Raphael said, ‘Cut it open; take out the gall, heart and liver and throw the rest of the guts away, but the gall and heart and liver make good medicine.’ The rest of the fish they cooked and pickled to eat on the way.

Reflection

Look how the dog is faithful to Tobias! ‘Wherever you are going, I will go.’ he does not know that they are going across the river,  through the desert and over the mountains, for days and days. He just knows Tobias needs him.

And God gives Tobias another companion, a real angel in disguise called Raphael. All Tobias knows about him is that Raphael knows the way across the river, through the desert and over the mountains.

But he knows more than that! He knows how to use part of the fish for medicine, so they save that and eat the rest. Fish and chips tomorrow for us and nobody nibbling out toes.

Let’s thank God for our companions on the journey, for our guardian angels, and our friends and family. May we be as faithful as Tobias and the dog.

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June 5: A windy day in Canterbury.

cathedralbyellie2

Eleanor captured a misty day in Canterbury. 

It was a windy day in Canterbury, so windy I did not light up the L’Arche garden incinerator (and who doesn’t like a fire outdoors?).

Home at the end of the morning to hang out the washing: Saint Stephen’s bells are ringing, and a bagpipe playing, blown on the wind which had changed direction so that I had to cycle against it going out and coming in.

Opening the emails, here was part of the day’s reading. Nebuchadnezzar had set up his golden statue:

“Be ready now to fall down and worship the statue I had made,
whenever you hear the sound of the trumpet,
flute, lyre, harp, psaltery, bagpipe,
and all the other musical instruments;
otherwise, you shall be instantly cast into the white-hot furnace;
and who is the God who can deliver you out of my hands?” Daniel 3:4-6

Of course we know what happened: Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to worship the statue, were thrown into the furnace, and were joined by a fourth person,  identified as the angel of the Lord.

I guess the music of the bells and pipes was for a wedding. Let’s hope that the angel of the Lord will be with the couple in all their trials and all their joys.

MMB.

 

 

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