Although the reflections at Church have gone ahead each week, I am behind with my Blog. The main reason for this is that Kevin and I chose to replace our ten-year old computer with a new one. We have entered into a whole new technological experience. I apologise for being behind. Instead of one reflection a week I will endeavour to post three within Holy Week. My timing may not be perfect-yet I pray that God can use the timing to work out for the best.
When we think of our life’s ambitions for what have we dreamt? Would we like to be the fantastic football player; an amazingly beautiful dancer; a successful novelist; a compassionate politician; whoever it is just to be that one person who can make all the difference? Perhaps our ambitions are modest? We want to have work, to have a place we call home, to have families who love us and have bright futures, to have friends who build us up and with whom we can enjoy life. On this day of the London Marathon, perhaps we merely want to fulfil a challenging ambition such as completing a marathon at least once in a lifetime.
When we pray in the Lord’s prayer: “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven” what is the nature of the kingdom in which we pin our hope? What is this kingdom of God of which Jesus talks? The meanings are hidden in parables. Surely it is crazy to sell everything we have for that one “pearl” of great value? Or equally, why sell everything to buy a field for the treasure within it? (Matthew 13:44-45) Do we then need to spend a life time digging up the field to find the treasure we have hidden? Might that not be a lifetime of effort ending up in frustration and futility?
I can understand the need for healing: the crippled to walk; the leprous to be cleansed; the deaf to hear; and the blind to see. And yet in the Beatitudes, how is it that the “poor” or “poor in spirit” are blessed with the kingdom of heaven? Does that mean we can never aspire to be rich? And how is it that the “meek” will “inherit the earth”? (Matthew 5: 3,5) Perhaps at a pinch, a woman could be meek, or a homosexual or celibate man; but surely a regular heterosexual man, an alpha male, cannot stoop to being described as meek? And what is the virtue of meekness for both men and women in this assertive, self promoting age? Aren’t we advised to sell ourselves on Linked in and Twitter to move ahead in our careers and to stay employable?
How is it that those who are least respectable and not caught up in religious practices are the ones invited to the party in our place?(Luke 14: 15-23). How is it that a child is nearer to the kingdom of heaven than the wisest philosopher or most eminent scientist? (Matthew 18:1-4) Why is it that the foolish things of God are wiser than man’s wisdom. ( Corinthians 1:25; Isaiah 29:14). The physically blind can be healed and regain their sight, yet others are to remain without their inner sight. “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving” (Isaiah 6:9; Matthew 13:14). Is it the case of “never so blind as those who will not see” especially when we are in positions of power and influence and have something to lose? Some parables I do understand and identify with easily. Losing and finding things; as I am very good at losing things. Yet it still seems crazy for the shepherd to desert his ninety-nine obedient sheep, to go traipsing off looking for the one that has got itself into trouble. ( Luke 15:1-7). And equally ridiculous for a woman to turn her house upside down and spend all day searching for a single coin she has lost. OK, it might have sentimental value, but even so? ( Luke 15: 8-10). What about time and motion studies and performance targets? What a complete waste of time and resources in this age where time is money and efficiency and effectiveness is everything.
I constantly lose things and I know the time I waste as I hunt high and low retracing my steps searching for keys, purses, books, and my mobile phone. One October in my 30th year, I was with my family on a walking holiday in Coniston. On the first evening we had run through a field to the lake’s edge and the key for the room had fallen from a pocket. We discovered what had happened when we returned inside. We came back to search the field for the key, but to no avail. A few days later, just before sunset, I returned on my own to have one last look for the elusive key. I walked slowly down to the lake crisscrossing the field, head down covering every inch. There was no key. I gazed at the lake for a few minutes and then returned in the same manner, scouring the grass with my eyes. Suddenly I realised I was missing the sight of a magnificent sunset behind me. I lifted my head and turned back to look. As my eyes turned they alighted on the shiny surface of a key. If I had not turned at that point, I would have walked past and missed it. On that day, did I glimpse the kingdom of God? As I stopped to appreciate His world of beauty, I found what I was looking for. The reflection for altered perspectives was kindly led by my Mum last Sunday as I was in Manchester supporting Kevin who was running in the Manchester Marathon. While he was running I waited for him at Salford Keys, relaxing over a hot drink in the Lowry coffee shop and then sitting by the edge of the Manchester Ship canal, staring at the rippling water and thinking about the following prayer. I see it as a rant to God, appealing to God in a similar manner in which King David pleads in the psalms:
Strengthen our faith.
Surely if a lost key can be found in the middle of a field, a missing plane can be found in the depths of an ocean? You know the plane I mean.
Strengthen the determination of those searching and illuminate the way as they persevere with care and diligence.
We need to have a better understanding of what happened for the sake of all those on board and for those left behind.
We trust that you carry them within Your loving arms.
Please hear our prayer and answer our call.
Trusting always in Your love.
As I finished praying and got up to go and meet Kevin at the finish line, a hazy sun briefly broke through the sky of clouds. A path of liquid light shone over the water. I am not saying it was a sign, but it was beautiful and calming.