Reflections 1 and 2
You will have noticed that the Collect I chose for today is that for George Herbert, whose writings, “The Temple” and “The Country Parson” greatly influenced me in my understanding of what it means to be a parish priest or parson. I commend it. It is about Being and not Doing.
It links up with the hymn “ Dear Lord and Father of mankind”. I heard this story a few weeks ago and it stuck in my mind.
The hymn is the last 5 verses of a 10 verse poem. The second 5 are written in contrast to what has gone before. The first 5, tells of, and the writer denounces, the practice of brewing soma beer, an alcoholic drink designed to stimulate or enhance the activity and emotion of worship, to create a false rapture something along the lines of what we sometimes call happy clappy – only more so.
The writer of the poem / hymn, John Whittier, 1807 – 92, asks for forgiveness from our foolish ways , that brewing and the search for excitement and instead to seek that still small voice, based upon the reading from 1 Kings 19..
He, Herbert and I would agree that the quest is essential in the work and preaching of a parish parson.
To hear that still, small voice takes time and has to be heard within the clamour of the earthquake, the wind, the fire of daily life. It is always the quest of the preacher to find that voice that is to be heard at that time, and then, and only then, spoken.
Such takes time.
For me, sermon preparation begins on Monday morning. Reading are read, thoughts, words, ideas are written down and allowed to distil through the week, revisited, refined, rejected, added to, centred, and only then written.
I cannot understand clergy who sit down on a Saturday evening to write a sermon for Sunday morning, or to do something worse, download from some web site or other the words of someone else. You can always tell. It is too polished, and often out of character with the preacher.
The sense of quiet , reflection, finding stillness is a key principle in worship. That is what Whittier and Herbert are all about- and in a world of Hurley Burley, the always on the phone or social media type, this notion of life and worship is a contrast but a good contrast.
And so I ask is what is often called Innovative Worship or Fresh Expressions, where is the boundary between it and entertainment ? Soma beer is being re-brewed.
Such is my first reflection of what has been a guiding principle of my ministerial life, and is. for all of us, I believe, a good principle.
George Herbert Collect.
King of Glory, King of Peace,
who called your servant George Herbert from the pursuit of worldly honours
to be a priest in the temple of his God and King,
grant us grace to offer ourselves with singlemness of hesart in humble obedience to your service, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Reflection 2 – My indulgence.
One of my ongoing interests has been in the realms of Social Science and Applied Science.
Social Science is about understanding the growth, development and evolution of human beings, their societies, cultures, religions, ethics, the way people have learned and come to terms with their dealings with other people.
Think how the original human beings ancestors emerge from Africa, developing very slowly into nomadic hunter / gatherers, then again very slowly into the agriculture and village settlements, and then, after a very long time comes the Industrial Revolution, and now we are in the midst of the Technological / Digital age. Think how we got here from where we started. It is amazing.
Alongside these practical developments comes the ethics – how to treat foreigners, people of different skin colour, language, sexual orientation, and primarily how men treat women.
All these, along with others, are part of the quest / discovery / realization of truth, a truth that enlightens, sets free, lives with change and its effects.
Coupled with this is applied science. Such has brought great benefit in such areas as healing, transport, food production, military security, education, medicine and health matters. Many of these remove much of the drudgery of life and its threat to survival.
My interest and knowledge is not at degree level in either case, its more GCSE / 11+, and in some cases Beano. But all power to the new Ladybird Series to make complicated science intelligible to those of us with limited understanding. All these are about having life in all its fullness, It is about seeing an ongoing creation, of learning more about life, world, universe, truth.
I thought about reflecting on the Ecumenical Movement, which is more that church relationships and unity. OIKUMENE is about bringing together the peoples and nations who are divided into a community of trust and well being. Such I fear is now in decline with the rise of right wing nationalistic politics in some European countries, the U.S.A. and even among some people in our own country following that Referendum. Dennis Healey, the labour politician, reviewing the conflict history of Europe’s countries, who fought in the Second World War wrote “ I went into politics to stop World War Three. I have succeeded.”
That is full and true Ecumanism.
My final thought is this.
Isaac Walton was a resident of Winchester, a friend of John Donne, then Dean of St. Paul’s in London, and a biographer of George Herbert. He is most famous for his book, first published in 1654, and never out of print,
“ The Complete Angler “
The Contemplative Man’s Recreation.”
He is commemorated with a window in Winchester Cathedral.
He ends his book with a quote from 1 Thessalonians
“Study to be quiet “
which brings us back to Herbert and Whittier.