Remember you are dust….. Ash Wednesday, for life.

 

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I’ve been thinking a lot about being the same stuff as the earth as I’ve been pottering around in the garden watching spring emerge, and reflecting on the parable of the sower, and other stories Jesus told.

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Ransoms, or wild garlic – as I made dumplings with them, and enjoyed them, I felt part of our local wood.

Today, Ash Wednesday, I emptied our Baxi grate, and carried the ash to the compost heap, getting covered in the stuff as a gust of wind blew.  It was a far more comprehensive ashing than we normally receive in church, and it felt given to me, a reminder of my state as dust, ash, earth.  As I stirred them into the first grass clippings of the year, and yesterday’s lemon peel from Shrove Tuesday, I thought about the beloved tree that we lost in our garden, and how it’s kept us warm this winter. I gave thanks for it. I thought too about Malcolm Guite’s Sonnet for Ash Wednesday, that speaks of the burning of the world’s forests.  I though how complex and delicate our relationship with the rest of the natural world is, and how easy it is to abuse and neglect its care.

It’s good we have these days and seasons – Ash Wednesday is right for penitence, and even lament, as we consider how separately we have tried to live from all that is good and true and sustaining.  How we have broken the Shalom, the peace and harmony of God’s intent for us and for all things.

It holds its own remedy, too.   People are normally given a cross of ash at a communion service, the great reminder and restorer of our unity with God, with each other, with the gifts of the earth in the form of bread and wine.  With the gift of Jesus.  Also, a reminder that we are one with the earth puts us in our place, and that place, if we stay with it long enough,  is a deep unity and kinship.  And that circled my thinking back to the parables, back to the talk I gave at Girton College ten days ago. It might help in the context of the burning of our world, and our state of being ash and soil.  Jesus told stories that speak deeply to our nature, and the nature of God and the world.  As we are made of the same stuff as earth, we can rediscover that connection, and in it find hope for an amendment of life, living more fully and abundantly, more joyfully and humbly and thankfully.

As we enter this season of Lent, may we be quiet enough to hear the whisperings, and the stirrings, of – not just new life, but a new way of living. We can repent – the Hebrew word normally translated such carries a meaning of turning back home, the Greek of having a change of mindset.  Both of these carry great hope – the reign of God is very close, all around, within us, if we but look and see.

The sower, the seed, and the soil. A talk at Girton College Chapel.

 

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Last Sunday, I had the enormous privilege of speaking at Girton College Chapel. Malcolm Guite, the chaplain and poet, invited me to speak.  I’d been for the 150th anniversary celebrations last year, and Malcolm is continuing to invite Old Girtonians back this year too.

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It was so good to be back, and in the chapel which was good to me as a student.  It’s a beautiful, safe, nurturing space, and it also has a superb acoustic, which means that at evensong, you feel immersed in the roll of the music.  The choir are excellent, well worth hearing, and it was particularly good to have music by another Old Girtonian, Rhiannon Randle.  Her new work, Our Burning World, was performed on Monday.  You can read about it on her website linked above.

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One of Vincent van Gogh’s astonishing paintings of The Sower

Malcolm very generously gave me some flexibility to talk about what was on my mind, and I decided to follow where my thoughts, readings and prayers are taking me and talk about one of the parables.  I’ve been particularly drawn to Jesus’ parables of the natural world, curious to find out how he noticed to the flowers of the field, the birds of the air, and the work of tending soil for food.

Having driven to Cambridge through the tail end of a storm, it seemed very appropriate to be speaking from a parable of the soil. It is good to return to the gospels for wisdom, especially as humanity seems to be on the brink of a crisis in our relationship with the rest of creation.

Malcolm has kindly published the text of the talk on the College Website.  You can read it
here.

My thoughts on the parables are gradually taking shape into something, I hope it will be another book.  Sometimes, I know that there is some treasure to be dug, but I’m not sure what it will be until the digging is well underway.  So, I shall return to my digging, and see what good things I unearth along the way.

 

If you’d like to read more about seeds and sowing, you can look elsewhere on my blog, as below.

Sunday Retold – The Sower and the Seed 16th July 2017

November Sowing

Sunday Retold – Small Seeds, from Luke 17

 

Poem – Today, July 19th

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It’s been a busy few weeks.  I’ve had the enormous privilege of speaking at the 150th Anniversary Festival Service for my old college, Girton.  It was such a special service, and the choir filled the red brick chapel with marvelous sound.  How good to celebrate 150 years since the college’s small beginnings – the small beginnings of women’s higher education in this country.  It was so good to be able to contribute to a diverse and joyful weekend. A huge thank you to Malcolm Guite for inviting me to speak.

What with that, and this – this, and that, I have rather lost my daily rhythm of writing, and today I thought I would try again.  Just to sit with a notebook and begin, and see where my pencil took me.

It didn’t take me very far at all.  It kept me right where I am.

 

Today, July 17th

Today is a day of butterflies –
white against the deep greens,
the purples,
tumbling over the lavender –
intoxicated.

Today the hard nubs of
apples wait for their
slow ripening,
and the last of the buttercups
shimmer faintly.
Tomorrow, and yesterday,
yesterday, and tomorrow,
but now,

Today, is a day for hollyhocks,
frilled and pastel,
full of large fat bees,
while the young newts
hide there, under the red
watering can,
and the sky turns white,
and the swifts fly high,
and my eyes fill with
limpid light.
It is enough.

 

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