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.
Saint Thomas’ Parish, Canterbury invites readers to ‘please share’ items from their website. As we approach Holy Week, here are reflections by Canon Anthony Charlton on the Tree of Life as found in Psalm 1 and the events we remember on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Day.
There is a small stained glass window within the Church of the Good Shepherd, New Addington, created by a Buckfast Abbey monk, Dom Charles Norris. It depicts the image that is presented to us in Psalm 1. “Happy the man who has placed his trust in the Lord. He is like a tree that is planted beside the flowing waters, that yields its fruit in due season and whose leaves shall never fade; and all that he does shall prosper.”
Dom Charles employed a technique known as dalles-de-verre in which ‘tiles’ of coloured glass are chipped into shape and laid, mosaic-fashion, in a matrix of resin. As I sat in the presidential chair during Mass I was able to gaze on it while listening to the readings at Mass. The tree planted near running water reminded me of the only way to live my life fruitfully is to have deep roots that receive nourishment from the living water which is the Holy Spirit given to all of us.
In our life we can either trust in our own position, what others think of us, our status, our wealth, what we own or acquire in order to experience happiness or we listen to the way of Jesus. He shows us an alternative way of happiness. Yet this way will lead to a clash of values that will lead us to suffer for our commitment of bringing about God’s kingdom.
What Jesus is presenting to us is a radical choice that will put us at odds with the society in which we live. The extraordinary thing about the way of Christ is that is will lead to happiness but it will be by means of the Cross. We choose this way every time we come together to celebrate Mass and unite ourselves with the death and resurrection of Jesus. As the poor, the hungry, the sorrowing, the despised and the excluded, we embrace this way of happiness. We do this because we trust in the Lord. We are like a tree that is planted beside flowing water.
who alone can satisfy our deepest hungers,
protect us from the lure of wealth and power;
move our hearts to seek first your kingdom,
that ours may be the security and joy of those
who place their trust in you. AMEN.
Good Evening Friends. My brother shared this post from the URC. Just the beginning here, but follow the link for the rest of it. The author is the Rev’d Andy Braunston.
Daily Devotions from the URC
Ukraine through the eyes of Psalm 94
Whilst preparing a reflection on Psalm 94 I was struck by how John Bell’s version is hauntingly evocative of the situation of Ukraine. You can hear it here.
The opening stanza evokes images of women and children being bombed in Ukraine, babies and elderly killed, and the memorial to Jews murdered by the Nazis being desecrated by Putin’s forces. Bell hauntingly brings out the cry of the Psalmist urging God to act as those whom God loves are being harmed. Bell keeps up the punch with the second stanza showing how those who crush God’s people delight and think Heaven is blind to their crimes. Despite the anger and rawness of the Psalm we still have hope – hope that God will act, hope that even if the courts don’t intervene, even if the guilty smile at their scheming, hope that God will cherish, keep and protect the faithful. Read the rest of this reflection here.
Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal
Day 8 “They left for their own country by another road”
Psalm 16– You show me the path of life.
Matthew 11:25-30– Because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent, and have revealed them to infants.
We do not know what the wise men thought – they who were experts in astronomy and navigation – when they were warned to return by another road. They may well have been very confused, but the same light that illumined their journey showed them that there was another road, another possibility. They were called to change direction.
We often find ourselves bound by our familiar ways of doing things and of seeing the world. When these ways or ‘roads’ are closed, we wonder how to proceed and continue the journey. We have to trust that the everlasting One who gave us the light, can always find a way forward when our ways and paths are blocked. A fresh start is always possible when we are willing and open to the work of the Spirit.
As churches we look to the past and find illumination, and we look to the future in search of new ways so that we can continue to shine the light of the Gospel as we journey by another way, together.
when we only know one way and we think we must return to it,
when we think that all roads are blocked, and we fall into despair,
we always find you there, creating a new unexpected path before us.
If we search our maps and find no route,
nonetheless we always find you, who lead us by a yet more excellent way,
trusting that you will always lead us back to you
and forward in unity together. Amen.
Journeying on parallel paths or often in opposite directions
We are called by ‘another way’
to become pilgrim companions,the people of The Way.
Compasses and maps orientated
route finding and navigating together
our backpacks not burdensome, our boots crunching on,
rediscovering ancient paths,
walking humbly together with our God.
Global: What other ways of journeying together could we explore that would lead us into a better future?
Local: What do we take for granted about our daily rhythms? What blessing might someone of another tradition receive from the worship in your church? How might the worship of your church be perceived by someone of another tradition?
Personal: How does it feel when your familiar ways or traditions are challenged?
Global: Find out how communities from all over the world joined in pilgrimage for climate justice in 2021. Plan as churches together to continue the journey to a better future for the planet and for us all. Find out more at christianaid.org.uk/campaigns
Local: Organise a local pilgrimage between the churches in your area, for example, you could walk to each of the church buildings or find your nearest pilgrim route.
Personal: Journey familiar routes by another way, for example walk 50% more slowly on your errands today, what do you notice? How do you see things differently?
Original photo of Nablus (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0): Dr. Michael Loadenthal
‘We Saw His Star in the East’.
King Herod was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him
Reflection Christ’s coming disturbs the ways of the world. He comes in humility, denouncing the evil of injustice and oppression that accompanies the ambition for power, wealth and status. Jesus calls for a change of heart and a transformation of life, which will bring liberation from all that dehumanises. This creates disturbance precisely because he rocks the boat of those who seek only their own interests and neglect the common good. But for those who work for peace and unity, Christ’s coming brings the light of hope.
We are invited to commit ourselves to act constructively to make justice a reality, acknowledging where we have strayed from God’s ways of justice and peace. Then the answer to our prayer for Christian unity becomes visible as others recognise in us Christ’s presence in the world. We can bring the light of hope to those living in the darkness of political unrest, social poverty, and structural discrimination. The Good News is that God is faithful, always strengthening and protecting us, inspiring us to work for the good of others, especially the victims of oppression, hatred, violencand pain.
Lord, you led us out of darkness to hope in Jesus.
Unite us in our commitment to establish your reign of love, justice and peace,
bringing light to those living in the darkness of despair and disillusionment.
Shine your light upon us and surround us with the warmth of your love.
Lift us up to you, so that our lives may glorify you,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Psalm 2:1-10 Why do the nations conspire…?
2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 But the Lord is faithful, he will strengthen you
Go and do
Global: Covid-19 turned the world upside down and provided an opportunity to reimagine how things could be. Find out more about and get involved in the campaign to crack the crises and ensure this opportunity for transformation is not lost.
Local: Consider as churches together what situations of injustice or exclusion exist in your locality. Work with others in your community to challenge and change the systems that need turning upside-down.
Personal: Take time today to sit in stillness and discern what injustice most disturbs your conscience, spend time praying, researching and planning how you can take action about it (if you are not already involved in doing so).
Verse / Poem
In the school Nativity Play
they cast the class bully as Herod.
No acting required.
Jesus, you ask
which role shall I play
in my world, your world, today.
And you will me to seek first
your holy inspiration
that I might be just
QuestionsGlobal: Where have you seen the values of the Church disturbing
society’s values for the common good?
Local: Is your church or group of churches too comfortable in a
discomforting world? How could your church or group be disturbed into
Personal: When have you been disturbed into doing what was right?
Maggie Terry: “It is crazy to think about just how much we consume and how little we care about it.” (Caila Rentz)
From the wild places under the stars to the city that never sleeps: quite a step! But it’s Christmas shopping time so we ought to give some thought to the waste that activity entails. it’s all part of stewardship of creation: being set over the works of God’s hands, as we read in Psalm 8 yesterday. This article on dumpster diving shows how some people are pushing back against the appalling waste they see all around them: food, furniture, clothes, toys, and more. It comes from the National Catholic Reporter; the link will take you to the full article. There are many differences between United Kingdom and the USA, but we too are guilty of tremendous waste: what are we doing about it?
Maggie Terry’s idea of a great night out in New York City is a little different from many of her peers’. Rather than heading to her couch or a cocktail bar to unwind after a day of work, she looks forward to something else: dumpster diving.
The 24-year-old elementary school teacher and her husband, Michael, spend their evenings (“every day but Saturday,” Terry says) digging through the trash for salvageable goods. Their finds are wide-ranging, from $400 worth of KitKats in a Walgreens dumpster one night to an antique Hartmann chest circa 1890 pulled from residential trash and valued at $3,000 the next.
The duo keeps what they can use — the Hartmann chest now serves as their coffee table — and redistributes the rest, by way of donation to food banks, charities, or just leaving goods out for free on their front stoop, where most items are taken by neighbors within 24 hours.
Another reflection on the stars by a writer who loves the wild places where dark skies are more likely, the stars more visible. Robert Macfarlane is moved, almost physically, by gazing up - or is it down? into the night sky.
The unconverted and limitless nature of the night sky ... is given a depth by the stars that far exceeds the depth given to the diurnal sky by clouds. On a cloudless night, looking upwards, you experience a sudden flipped vertigo, the feeling that your feet might latch off from the earth and you might plummet upwards into space... Our estrangement from the dark [due to street lighting] was a great and serious loss.
Robert Macfarlane, THE WILD PLACES, London, Granta, 2007.
A similar emotion struck David, who must have spent many a night under the stars:
For I will behold thy heavens, the works of thy fingers: the moon and the stars which thou hast founded.
What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him?
Thou hast made him a little less than the angels, thou hast crowned him with glory and honour:
And hast set him over the works of thy hands.
Before we get carried away in gratification, let Macfarlane remind us that the loss of the night sky to urban dwellers is serious and stunting.
About the photograph: Image of the night sky above Paranal, Chile on 21 July 2007, taken by ESO astronomer Yuri Beletsky. A wide band of stars and dust clouds, spanning more than 100 degrees on the sky, is seen. This is the Milky Way, the galaxy to which we belong. At the centre of the image, two bright objects are visible. The brightest is the planet Jupiter, while the other is the star Antares. Three of the four 8.2-m telescopes forming ESO’s VLT are seen, with a laser beaming out from Yepun, Unit Telescope number 4. The laser points directly at the Galactic Centre. Also visible are three of the 1.8-m Auxiliary Telescopes used for interferometry. They show small light beams which are diodes located on the domes. The exposure time is 5 minutes and because the tracking was made on the stars, the telescopes are slightly blurred.
Pope Francis describes how God and Creation, creation and humanity, and humanity and God are all intimately connected, and a breakdown in one relationship jeopardises the other two. We humans, of course, also undermine what should be loving relationships with each other. Is there one good person on God’s Earth?
70. In the story of Cain and Abel, we see how envy led Cain to commit the ultimate injustice against his brother, which in turn ruptured the relationship between Cain and God, and between Cain and the earth from which he was banished. This is seen clearly in the dramatic exchange between God and Cain. God asks: “Where is Abel your brother?” Cain answers that he does not know, and God persists: “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground. And now you are cursed from the ground” (Genesis 4:9-11). Disregard for a proper relationship with my neighbour, for whose care and custody I am responsible, ruins my relationship with my own self, with others, with God and with the earth. When all these relationships are neglected, when justice no longer dwells in the land, the Bible tells us that life itself is endangered. We see this in the story of Noah, where God threatens to do away with humanity because of its constant failure to fulfil the requirements of justice and peace: “I have determined to make an end of all flesh; for the earth is filled with violence through them” (Genesis 6:13). These ancient stories, bear witness to a conviction which we today share, that everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others.
71. Although “the wickedness of man was great in the earth” (Genesis 6:5) and the Lord “was sorry that he had made man on the earth” (Genesis 6:6), nonetheless, through Noah, who remained innocent and just, God decided to open a path of salvation. In this way he gave humanity the chance of a new beginning. All it takes is one good person to restore hope! The biblical tradition clearly shows that this renewal entails recovering and respecting the rhythms inscribed in nature by the hand of the Creator. We see this, for example, in the law of the Sabbath. On the seventh day, God rested from all his work. He commanded Israel to set aside each seventh day as a day of rest, a Sabbath, (cf. Genesis 2:2-3; Exodus 16:23; 20:10). Similarly, every seven years, a sabbatical year was set aside for Israel, a complete rest for the land (cf. Leviticus 25:1-4), when sowing was forbidden and one reaped only what was necessary to live on and to feed one’s household (cf. Leviticus 25:4-6). Finally, after seven weeks of years, which is to say forty-nine years, the Jubilee was celebrated as a year of general forgiveness and “liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants” (cf. Leviticus 25:10). This law came about as an attempt to ensure balance and fairness in their relationships with others and with the land on which they lived and worked. “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field to its very border, neither shall you gather the gleanings after the harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare, neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner” (Leviticus 19:9-10).
72. The Psalms frequently exhort us to praise God the Creator, “who spread out the earth on the waters, for his steadfast love endures for ever” (Psalm 136:6). They also invite other creatures to join us in this praise: “Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! Let them praise the name of the Lord, for he commanded and they were created” (Psalm 148:3-5). We do not only exist by God’s mighty power; we also live with him and beside him. This is why we adore him.
After discussing statements on the environment and the misuse of Creation by popes over the last fifty years, Pope Francis continues by saying how scientists and other thinkers have contributed to church thinking.
7. Other Churches and Christian communities – and other religions as well – have expressed deep concern and offered valuable reflections on issues which all of us find disturbing. To give just one striking example, I would mention the statements made by the beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with whom we share the hope of full ecclesial communion.
8. Patriarch Bartholomew has spoken in particular of the need for each of us to repent of the ways we have harmed the planet, for “inasmuch as we all generate small ecological damage”, we are called to acknowledge “our contribution, smaller or greater, to the disfigurement and destruction of creation”. He has repeatedly stated this firmly and persuasively, challenging us to acknowledge our sins against creation: “For human beings… to destroy the biological diversity of God’s creation; for human beings to degrade the integrity of the earth by causing changes in its climate, by stripping the earth of its natural forests or destroying its wetlands; for human beings to contaminate the earth’s waters, its land, its air, and its life – these are sins”. For “to commit a crime against the natural world is a sin against ourselves and a sin against God”.
9. At the same time, Bartholomew has drawn attention to the ethical and spiritual roots of environmental problems, which require that we look for solutions not only in technology but in a change of humanity; otherwise we would be dealing merely with symptoms. He asks us to replace consumption with sacrifice, greed with generosity, wastefulness with a spirit of sharing, an asceticism which “entails learning to give, and not simply to give up. It is a way of loving, of moving gradually away from what I want to what God’s world needs. It is liberation from fear, greed and compulsion”. As Christians, we are also called “to accept the world as a sacrament of communion, as a way of sharing with God and our neighbours on a global scale. It is our humble conviction that the divine and the human meet in the slightest detail in the seamless garment of God’s creation, in the last speck of dust of our planet”.
Bartholomew and Francis are close to Blake’s vision:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.
But Blake is not sentimentalising. He goes on to catalogue some sins against Creation, specifically cruelty against animals. If we saw a Heaven in a Wild Flower we would accept the world as a sacrament of communion, and not act in this way:
A Robin Red breast in a Cage Puts all Heaven in a Rage. A Dove house filld with Doves & Pigeons Shudders Hell thr’ all its regions. A dog starvd at his Masters Gate Predicts the ruin of the State. A Horse misusd upon the Road Calls to Heaven for Human blood. Each outcry of the hunted Hare A fibre from the Brain does tear. A Skylark wounded in the wing A Cherubim does cease to sing. The Game Cock clipd & armd for fight Does the Rising Sun affright.
I am never alone when praying the psalms, and this is not just because I pray them in the liturgy and in community. Many people pray the psalms privately, and they, too, are not alone. This is because the psalms, you might say, “refashion” the heart of the person praying.
As we approach the Feast of Saint Francis on 4 October, we have been looking at aspects of Creation and our part in it as co-workers with God, the mistakes the human family have made, and that you and I continue to make. We read C.S. Lewis telling us that we have to go beyond warm-feeling nature religion and engage in serious theology if we want to have the right idea about God. So let’s get serious and read what Pope Francis says about the crisis in our corner of creation, the corner we have responsibility for. Here is the opening.
1. “LAUDATO SI’, mi’ Signore” – “Praise be to you, my Lord”. In the words of this beautiful canticle, Saint Francis of Assisi reminds us that our common home is like a sister with whom we share our life and a beautiful mother who opens her arms to embrace us. “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”.
2. This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will. The violence present in our hearts, wounded by sin, is also reflected in the symptoms of sickness evident in the soil, in the water, in the air and in all forms of life. This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Romans 8:22). We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth (cf. Genesis 2:7); our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.
Note that the Pope uses the language of the Bible, which also inspired the poet Walter Savage Landor’s verse ‘content to sink into her lap when life is spent.’ The realisation of our earthliness is a first step to caring for our sister as God intended from the beginning of humanity.
Continuing Sister Johanna’s reflections on the Psalms; click here.
I’d like to say a few words about singing the psalms. From my personal perspective as an ex-ballet dancer, music is highly important to me, and I am so grateful that this long tradition of singing prayer exists.