Tag Archives: Psalms

27 June: A shared table.

I had been sitting at the garden table, taking tea with Mrs Turnstone and Grandson No 2, but they had to go to find his parents. I sipped on.

I feel I have short-changed you, dear readers, because the central character in this story does not appear in the feature photograph, but she would have been even more camera shy than Mrs T is, and I was enjoying her company too much to send her packing by pulling out my phone.

She is one of the hen sparrows that nest in the roof of next-door-but-one. The landlord could do with fixing the roof but will have to wait now until the breeding season is over. The sparrow flew down to the table and attacked one side of the sliver of cake; these was a waspy looking creature opposite who probably would have posed for a photo, but Mrs Sparrow is not that bold, so what you get to see is a sliver of cake, slightly ragged at the edges. I got a shared meal with Mrs Sparrow, an uninvited guest.

Not that she sees it that way. As far as she is concerned, we humans are part of God’s providence (Luke 12:6). Food was provided, and food was accepted. She tucked in herself before taking a beakful home. At some point later the cake fell to the floor and was scattered across the flagstones; but it grew too dark for photography, and by the time a tardy human drags himself downstairs tomorrow morning, the crumbs will be gone.

I expect this bird is one of those that help themselves to Mrs Turnstone’s sphagnum moss, leaving her hanging baskets denuded; I daresay, too, she knows about the flowers pecked to ribbons for their sweet petals and nectar. Some things just have to be forgiven.

Other translations have swallow for turtle; turtle being the turtle dove of course. Not as noisy as our local collared doves, I imagine.

How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of host! 
My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord. 
My heart and my flesh have rejoiced in the living God. 
For the sparrow hath found herself a house, 
and the turtle a nest for herself where she may lay her young ones: 
Thy altars, O Lord of hosts, 
my king and my God. 

Psalm 83(84) 2-4

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, PLaces, Summer

26 May: Resolution in Sussex

ill_pg-117_lg.jpg (898×1000)

Image details.

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, Oh Lord of Hosts, my King and my God. Psalm 84:3.

This is a text that should speak to the heart of any worshipper, we should surely rejoice that the birds of the air should feel at home in God’s place. I’m always happy to find that sparrows, robins or bluetits are living in our place, sparrows in the eaves, other birds in the hedge, blackbirds on top of the box put up for bluetits. You’ll see why I could not resist sharing this little story. I am inclined to believe it happened in a cast iron Royal Mail box, like the one below, rather than a private householder’s gatebox, as shown above. WT.

Rowfant [a small village in Sussex] was once the scene of one of the most determined struggles in history. The contestants were a series of Titmice and the G.P.O., and the account of the war may be read in the Natural History Museum at South Kensington:—

In 1888, a pair of the Great Titmouse (Parus major) began to build their nest in the post-box which stood in the road at Rowfant, and into which letters, &c., were posted and taken out by the door daily. One of the birds was killed by a boy, and the nest was not finished. In 1889, a pair completed the nest, laid seven eggs, and began to sit; but one day, when an unusual number of post-cards were dropped into, and nearly filled, the box, the birds deserted the nest, which was afterwards removed with the eggs. In 1890, a pair built a new nest and laid seven eggs, and reared a brood of five young, although the letters posted were often found lying on the back of the sitting bird, which never left the nest when the door of the box was opened to take out the letters. The birds went in and out by the slit.

From Highways and Byways in Sussex by E. V. Lucas.

Not this box, but probably one very like it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si', Spring

Swallows returning to their nests

Swallows were being discussed on the radio this morning, but no, we have not yet seen any around here, though we’ve had blackcaps and willow warblers among the UK’s migrants. This photograph of swallows’ nests was taken a few years ago at Brant Brougham near Lincoln at snowdrop time, so these were the previous year’s nests which might well have been repaired and reused a couple of months later.

It’s rather delightful that they should have built against the roof boss of the pelican on her nest. And the picture brings to mind the famous verse from the Psalms:

Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even thine altars, O LORD of hosts, my King, and my God. Psalm 84.3

Leave a comment

Filed under Interruptions, Laudato si', PLaces, Spring

28 March: Palm Sunday

Vandalised altar piece, Saint David’s Cathedral.
All they that saw me have laughed me to scorn: they have spoken with the lips, and wagged the head.
He hoped in the Lord, let him deliver him: let him save him, seeing he delighteth in him. 
For many dogs have encompassed me: the council of the malignant hath besieged me. 
They have dug my hands and feet. They have numbered all my bones. 
And they have looked and stared upon me. 
They parted my garments amongst them; and upon my vesture they cast lots. 
But thou, O Lord, remove not thy help to a distance from me; look towards my defence. 
I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I praise thee. 
Ye that fear the Lord, praise him: all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him.

Ps 22: 8-9; 17-20; 23-24.

In today’s Psalm it is clear that the malignant have set out to humiliate the writer. Stepping into his shoes for the moment, I think of moments when I’ve been in trouble, usually with other boys. Which was worse on these occasions – to be stared at silently by authority, or to be ignored while he or she finished the work on the desk before them? Either way, this was a theatrical act to arouse fear in the culprits.

But here authority goes further, parting the writer’s clothing, treating it like a set of raffle prizes, and leaving him naked, to be stared at. If they’d had electricity we can be sure they would have turned the floodlights on him, arousing even more primal fear.

And yet – ‘I will declare thy name to my brethren: in the midst of the church will I praise thee.’ So went the martyrs, singing and praising God to the scaffold, like William Richardson last month. They were following Jesus, confident that he would lead them through the Valley of Death that he had conquered. The martyrs witnessed to the truth of love and the love of truth. Neither Love nor Truth were conquered on Calvary.

But the suffering and death were real. We should not insulate ourselves from that, from the flesh and blood of Jesus that was ‘ill-used’, as perhaps those who defaced this altar piece were trying to do. Rather we must accept to carry each our own daily cross and follow him, declaring his name to our brethren.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Easter, Lent, Mission

8 March, Gates I: the gates of death.

Some of our posts during Lent will be a series, or as Christina would say, a season, on the theme of Gates, places where change can take place, where we can start a new life, perhaps in a new home. Some posts will be Scriptural, others from a variety of sources.

Our picture shows a section from the tympanum, or carved lintel panel above the West door of Strasbourg Cathedral. On the right we see one of the gates of death, attended by demons, with a woman descending into Hell. On the left is a remarkable image: the Lamb of God chewing through the rope on which Judas hanged himself, in order to save him from the gates of death. We should give some time to this chapter of Jesus’s story; certainly not one that appears explicitly in Scripture, but one that greatly mattered to the artist.

How many people have been so desperate that they committed suicide, as Judas did? In lockdown times, it is more difficult to get alongside friends who might be down, let alone strangers. Let us remember them when we say ‘Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world, grant us Peace.’ And may we all come together soon to declare all God’s praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion – the people of God.

Have mercy on me, O Lord: see my humiliation which I suffer from my enemies. Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death, that I may declare all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion. I will rejoice in thy salvation: the Gentiles have stuck fast in the destruction which they have prepared. Their foot hath been taken in the very snare which they hid.

Psalm 9: 11-16.

Leave a comment

Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, Justice and Peace, Lent, Spring

8 November: Borrow’s brolly

Image from Sister Johanna

George Borrow is walking through Wales in November 1854, and does not regard an umbrella as something expendable, to be thrown out when one or two struts have broken! No Bibles for sale this time, but he’s as full of himself as ever. Enjoy his bombast! But we could remind him of Psalm 17:8, ‘Keep me as the apple of thy eye. Protect me under the shadow of thy wings.’ Even when the rain is in your face, the Lord will protect you. If you allow him to.

Rain came on, but it was at my back, so I expanded my umbrella, flung it over my shoulder and laughed.  O, how a man laughs who has a good umbrella when he has the rain at his back, aye and over his head too, and at all times when it rains except when the rain is in his face, when the umbrella is not of much service.  O, what a good friend to a man is an umbrella in rain time, and likewise at many other times.  What need he fear if a wild bull or a ferocious dog attacks him, provided he has a good umbrella? he unfurls the umbrella in the face of the bull or dog, and the brute turns round quite scared, and runs away.  Or if a footpad asks him for his money, what need he care provided he has an umbrella? he threatens to dodge the ferrule into the ruffian’s eye, and the fellow starts back and says, “Lord, sir! I meant no harm.  I never saw you before in all my life.  I merely meant a little fun.”  Moreover, who doubts that you are a respectable character provided you have an umbrella? you go into a public-house and call for a pot of beer, and the publican puts it down before you with one hand without holding out the other for the money, for he sees that you have an umbrella and consequently property.  And what respectable man, when you overtake him on the way and speak to him, will refuse to hold conversation with you, provided you have an umbrella?  No one.  The respectable man sees you have an umbrella and concludes that you do not intend to rob him, and with justice, for robbers never carry umbrellas.  O, a tent, a shield, a lance and a voucher for character is an umbrella.  Amongst the very best friends of man must be reckoned an umbrella.

from Wild Wales by George Borrow.

Leave a comment

Filed under Autumn, Daily Reflections, PLaces

3 October: The Transitus of Saint Francis

Assisi at night

It’s a few years since we marked St Francistide with the Transitus Service, marking his death and entry into glory. This version was celebrated at the Franciscan Study Centre some years ago. I believe it was put together by Friar Anthony Jukes. It includes Francis’s Canticle of the Sun, which gave Pope Francis the starting point for his encyclical, Laudato Si’!

Mary Queen of Africa at Bobo diolasso from MAfr W Africa

Salve, Regína, mater misericórdiæ; vita, dulcédo et spes nostra, salve. Ad te clamámus, éxsules, filii Evæ. Ad te suspirámus, geméntes et flentes in hac lacrimárum valle. Eia ergo, advocáta nostra, illos tuos misericórdes óculos ad nos convérte. Et Iesum, benedíctum fructum ventris tui, nobis post hoc exsílium osténde. O clemens, o pia, o dulcis Virgo María.

Leave a comment

Filed under Autumn, Daily Reflections, Laudato si', PLaces

18 September: Still here.

Sharp eyes, Kentish or not, will have seen the Tabernacle or Aumbry to our left of the Altar. Jesus is sacramentally present here. We were a little late in the day to be able to linger anywhere in Saint David’s Cathedral; the crowd was beginning to press, but we can sit quietly and ponder these words of Sion Aled Owen in his meditation on The Accidental Pilgrim. Sometimes it’s easier to have heart aflame in a quiet moment than a crowded one.

And here you are
diverted by curiosity from the Coastal Path,
seeking some solace on a vacation rainy day
or on a taster tour from your ship
granted an hour to inherit centuries.
Or coming with heart already aflame
to claim the shrine’s promise.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Unity, Daily Reflections, PLaces

17 September: be still.

Sharp eyed Kentish Maids and Men of Kent will recognise the coats of arms behind the altar: this is the chapel of Saint Thomas of Canterbury, but in Saint David’s Cathedral in Wales. Far enough from London not to incur the wrath of a turbulent Tudor; I don’t know when the dedication was made to our local hero but under Henry VIII more than a couple of churches in England were switched from Saint Thomas of Canterbury to the doubting Apostle.

When we were in Saint David’s they had this banner on display. Let’s accept their invitation, and put ourselves in the presence of God.

Leave a comment

Filed under Christian Unity, Daily Reflections, PLaces

19 June, Heart VIII: Psalm 17

Let’s go back to our search for the meaning of heart in the Bible. As we’ve seen, Scripture says more about the human heart than about God’s, but then, we need to be careful with our metaphors, lest they diminish God to what the atheists deplore: a product of human imagination and need. But here we have King David, of all people, claiming that there is no wickedness in his heart!

Well, I know that I’ve not held fast to God’s paths, my feet have indeed slipped; even if I examine my conscience carefully, I’m well able to deceive myself. Maybe that’s the spirit in which to pray this Psalm: dear Lord, this is an aspiration!

Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry;
    give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit.
From you let my vindication come;
    let your eyes see the right.

If you try my heart, if you visit me by night,
    if you test me, you will find no wickedness in me;
    my mouth does not transgress.
As for what others do, by the word of your lips
    I have avoided the ways of the violent.
My steps have held fast to your paths;
    my feet have not slipped.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry, Year of Mercy