From the Rectory
“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.” [Ecclesiastes 3.1-8]
These well-known verses were printed on the front of a card sent to me following the death of my beloved Labrador, “Barclay”, just before Christmas. The extract comes from Ecclesiastes, part of the Old Testament’s so-called “Wisdom Literature”, in which the writer observes life, facing it with realism and reaching various conclusions. The writer seems to state the obvious, that changes and challenges happen to us all, though we might question the timing. “Barclay” had been my companion for over thirteen years, my second dog since Ordination, and as the weeks have gone by, and after many tears, I can now appreciate his last amazingly happy year with me in Beaulieu. I know, of course, that he wasn’t human, but he was my baby!
Thankfulness and tears can come in the self-same moment. For one bereaved, a tune heard out of the blue on the radio can be at once comforting and heart-breaking. Breaking down and building up; mourning and dancing, seeking and losing, war and peace, loving and hating, these seasons are not always opposite, but rather intimately woven together. Life is seldom neat and packaged as we would wish it to be. But the Incarnation is about the God who chose to come among us in Jesus Christ, taking us by the hand, leading us, and being alongside us in all the joys and muddles and seasons of our life. The one who shows us, paradoxically, that in losing our lives and dying to self we can discover life in all its fullness.
As we approach the season of Spring, we are not yet even thinking of Lent and Passiontide because this year Easter Day falls unusually late in mid-April, despite the creme eggs on the shelves in our supermarkets before New Year's Eve!
For the greater part of February, the liturgical colour for altar frontals and vestments is green, the colour of growth and new life and renewal. “A time to plant...to build up...to heal." Already sunrise is more than 30 minutes earlier than on the shortest day, and we can enjoy an hour's more daylight before nightfall than on Wednesday 21 December 2016.
Nationally, we can also anticipate seasons of change, as the implications of Brexit become a reality. There can be no greater prayer than, "...a time for peace.." in our troubled and complex world.
Looking ahead to March, may I flag up an event in the Abbey Church on Saturday 18 March at 7.00 pm. The Revd Donald Reeves MBE, former Rector of St James’ Piccadilly, and founder director of “Soul of Europe”, (described as: “A visionary with attitude” – Jack Dee. “A very dangerous man” – Baroness Thatcher), he will give a presentation entitled “Peacebuilding and Bach”. Donald will be playing some of Bach‘s chorale preludes, interspersed with stories of peacebuilding in the Balkans. Further details next month, but please put the date in your diary; we are assured of an insightful and challenging evening.
With the love and prayers of your Rector.