Tuesday, 4 May 2010

a penny drops...

detail from a Gradual, c. 1500 of an Easter Mass setting... note the sleeping guards!! 

A mid-week evening in the midst of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The post-service ritual of cuppa and chat before we all headed to our homes.
One of the ministers in the parish grouping led me across the room to meet a member of her congregation.
A question was asked.
I pondered, a little uncertainly.
And then said 'yes'.

The 'yes' came to fruition last night in the shape of delivering a mini-lecture on the beginnings of Protestant Reformation in Scotland and the place of John Knox in the midst of all of that.
And as I shared the stories of 450 years ago I thought again of the real flesh and blood people just getting on with the business of living their lives: all so very human.
I love the story of Knox, holed up with other Protestants in St Andrews castle, during the siege:
of Knox being so reluctant to accept his calling to preach the Protestant cause.
Of being asked and categorically stating that God was definitely NOT calling him to be a preacher.
Of being publicly challenged, whereupon he promptly burst into tears and ran to his room.
And of wrestling miserably for several days until reluctantly agreeing.
Human... and humans... all getting on and in the process becoming part of the patchwork of human history - some recorded, some not, but all connected and woven together into an amazing rag-bag tapestry.
There are dark and torn and scratchy bits: the bits that make you despair and cry at the horror that we, as humans, can create around us.
There are places sewn in gold thread: golden, shining moments that make you stop in awe and wonder when we, as humans, somehow move beyond our fears and reach out and risk practising planned and random acts of generosity... and in doing so, make the world and life that much more beautiful.
And amidst the darkness and the shimmering gold threads - the good, the bad and they ugly! - there are all the colours in between... making up the whole.
The 'life's rich tapestry' metaphor is an over-used metaphor, I know.
And yet somehow, last night, in a small room talking about human beings doing very human things
I realised again why I do love what to some is 'dry, dusty and dull history':
I love it because I see that although times and circumstances and mind-sets may change,
perhaps the human heart does not.

I read letters, and records of meetings, and side comments in margins of psalters of long ago
and see a tiny part of somebody's life.
Tiny snippets and snapshots of story which show hope, and joy and sadness.
Of human lives motivated by fear and love.
And am convinced of the truth in the old saying: the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Human beings are history - past, present and future - and what a marvellous thing:
I have the joy and the pleasure,
in the midst of sometimes hard slog,
of spending this part of my life doing what I do -
looking at the stories of people.
How can that NOT be amazing and interesting?
I guess, last night, I realised just how much I love this part of my particular story.

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