October 2018

First Thoughts : Derek

There’s something very evocative about Harvest Festival. Sheaves of corn, freshly-baked bread, trugs filled with shining, fresh vegetables with a bunch of grapes and even a scattering of hops draped over the display. Evocative but, today, a scene normally reserved for rural farming parishes.

My first memory of a harvest was on holiday in Devon. I must have been about eight or nine years old and we were staying close to a beach on the Devon coast. It was also close to a field where I was taken to watch the harvest being gathered in. As the harvesting approached the middle of the field, the rabbits ran out and the farmer shot them. When it was explained at supper that night that the meal was rabbit stew, I couldn’t eat it.  

In 1966, Caroline and I, on our way to the Lake District, drove past flock after flock of sheep with young lambs by their side as we approached the farmhouse where we were staying. They served lamb for supper. I’m sure it was delicious, but I didn’t enjoy it!

T. S. Eliot, in Burnt Norton, the first of his Four Quartets, wrote “...human kind cannot bear very much reality”. At eight or nine I couldn’t have been expected to but, by the time I had reached twenty three, I had improved but I was, and remain, “work in progress”.

We are all insulated from large chunks of reality. We are far removed from the abattoir or the deck of a fishing boat in a storm. The horrors from the television screen affect us, and, although we may react in a positive and creative way, all too often other events take their place and dim that earlier reality. But we are not insulated from the reality of the day to day in our own lives. We have to bear it, although we can sometimes try and ignore it, but in the end, we usually have to deal with it.

How we accept the reality of God, alive and active in our midst, will be different for each one us. For some, it can be helpful to start with a reminder that the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus is an historical fact. The fact that Jesus chose to die for you and for me is a bit hard to take, but that’s exactly what he did. The fact that we can be forgiven and the slate wiped clean is hard to understand but that’s what he offers.

We can experience God in ordinary circumstances: watching a stunning sunrise or standing on a station platform. We discover, much to our surprise, a “peace that passes all understanding” in the midst of tough circumstances.

God shows up in unlikely places when we are not in church. He invades grocery queues and football stadiums, burger bars and tea rooms. He speaks in ways we expect and in ways that amaze us.

He doesn’t insulate us from reality; He’s there with us in it. He invites us to bear His reality in our lives.


Monthly Letter
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