Friday, 29 January 2016

Teach us to care and not to care…

These are words from T.S.Eliot’s poem, Ash Wednesday. In past year’s I’ve quite often found myself reading the poem on that day itself – and am never much the clearer for understanding what it is about! But poetry – rather like the parables of Jesus – is not really for explaining. When we try to explain things there’s always the danger that we’ll explain them away. Poetry – again like the parables – is to engage the imagination. At its best it takes us to places we hadn’t expected to go.

The approaching season of Lent is an opportunity to embark on a journey not knowing quite where it might lead us. Traditionally it’s the time we remember Jesus’ 40 days spent fasting in the desert. He does that straight after his Baptism and before he embarks on his public ministry of teaching, preaching and healing. Before we speak we should listen – Jesus knew that and it’s a lesson for us continually to re-learn. If we’re going to use Lent as a time to journey and listen, we have to recognise that we can’t pre-determine the outcome and final destination.

For which reason I’m glad that this year our Bishop of Durham is coming to our Deanery to give a series of Lent Talks. Bishop Paul is speaking on the subject of “Blessing” – how God blesses us, how we may bless God, what it means to share God’s blessing with the communities in which we live. For clergy it’s good not to have to think about a Lent Course and what might work in our parishes. We’re going to be on the receiving end. We want to be sitting alongside our parishioners as we listen and learn together. So please do make it a priority to come to the three Thursday sessions at Christ Church, Consett on 18 & 25 February and 3 March.

Perhaps we’ll do something else in the parish in the remaining weeks of Lent. But for now I want to think of it as a time not to plan, but in which to receive. Activism can make us all too restless – too full of care for our own good. As Eliot wrote in his poem:

And pray to God to have mercy upon us
And pray that I may forget
These matters that with myself I too much discuss
Too much explain…

Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still.

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