Sunday, 29 June 2008

The port has been named Isaac

Sorry, darlings, all a bit religious.

The sidesman waved a port bottle at me. "Only *this much* left" she cried, which meant we might run out. It's my job to provide the communion wine, i.e. reasonably decent port. I sped off home to fetch the spare bottle I had in the larder. Unfortunately, it was sherry. There was a bottle of port, but it was extremely good 20-year-old vintage stuff. I hesitated, for several minutes. I looked again. No other option - and Weeza and Phil had borrowed my car, and there was no time to bike into town.

I decided. The good port would be used as the symbol of Christ's blood (no belief in transubstantiation in this blog, thank you). It was a waste, frankly, but in a good cause and it would be given willingly. I went out and locked the door.

Al was just going across the drive, and he came to greet me, grinning at the sight of the bottle in my hand. When I told him the tale, he produced his car key and said he'd drive me in to get another bottle. I genuinely had been going to give it though, so I think I've earned the points in St Peter's big book.

Dave* had to tell me his neighbour, David*, had died suddenly yesterday. He hadn't arrived to pick up a friend, so friend had called round and found him. I'd seen David on Friday afternoon - he grew salad and stuff for Al and he'd dropped in to the shop with a box of gooseberries. He'd promised to come back in the morning with half a dozen lettuces - but he didn't live to cut them. We're all shocked and sorry. The list of ill friends has continued to grow, too. There are so many people who have received awful shocks in the last few weeks.

I felt tense and depressed during the service. I've been losing it a bit - too much to do and too many people to worry about. However, I (unusually) had read a passage in the Bible this morning - St Paul's 1st epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 13, which I'll put at the end. And then, the Gospel reading was Luke Chapter 10, Verses 25 - 37 - which I'll give in a modern translation this time.

Okay, I'm no believer in signs and symbols, but all the same, I decided to focus out rather than in. It helped.

*honestly, both of them. All the best ones are called David.


Don't feel obliged to read them, the point is that the subject of both is love

St Paul's 1st epistle to the Corinthians, Chapter 13
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, if I have not love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, if I have not love, I am nothing. And though I give all my goods to feed the poor, and deliver up my body to be burned, if I have not love, it profiteth me nothing. Love suffereth long and is kind; love envieth not; love acteth not rashly, is not puffed up: Doth not behave indecently, seeketh not her own, is not provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth: Covereth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Love never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. And when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall vanish away. When I was a child I talked as a child; I understood as a child, I reasoned as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things. And now we see by means of a glass obscurely; but then face to face: now I know in part, but then I shall know, even as also I am known. And now abide these three, faith, hope, love; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke Chapter 10, Verses 25 - 37

25 One day an expert in religious law stood up to test Jesus by asking him this question: “Teacher, what should I do to inherit eternal life?”
26 Jesus replied, “What does the law of Moses say? How do you read it?"
27 The man answered, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’”
28 “Right!” Jesus told him. “Do this and you will live!”
29 The man wanted to justify his actions, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbour?”

30 Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling on a trip from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road.
31 “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. 32 A Temple assistant[b] walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side.
33 “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. 34 Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. 35 The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins,[c] telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’
36 “Now which of these three would you say was a neighbour to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked.
37 The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”
Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.”

21 comments:

Gordie said...

I hadn't recognised you'd been depressed and losing it a bit. And I'd always assumed that communion wine would be poor quality. But the two pieces you quoted were lovely. Stay in your heart, please, and trust that all will be well.

Dandelion said...

Dear z, this makes me want to cry. I hope you are ok. I love that Corinthians one.

Z said...

I'm not depressed as such, but worried about friends. And today I wrote a to-do list, which I only do if I'm at risk of forgetting things, because there are so many of them. Thanks, Gordie.

Z said...

Sorry, Dandelion. Yes, I'm all right.

I went out to lunch with my friend John, came home and watched the bees, drove Weeza and Paul to the station, watered the greenhouses and cooked dinner. Nice relaxing Sunday pm stuff. I'll start on that list tomorrow, and also have another go on the drums, which will be jolly.

Z said...

Oh, the Communion wine used to be poor before I took it in hand. Now it's decent port, but not normally vintage.

Dandelion said...

No need to be sorry, z, crying can actually be quite pleasant. And it's good to be touched or moved by things, I think. That Bible Love always sets me off.

martina said...

Z,you must be a most excellent friend. Just reading your blog one can see that you are a good soul. In my book that is someone who makes you laugh often, tells you when you are being stupid, is there when needed, cries with and for you, and gives comfort and hugs. So, here are some hugs back at you. Th Bible verses really made me think, thank you!

Dave said...

Yes, supportive stuff from me too.

The trouble with being a professional in this area is that the 1 Cor 13 passage prompts me to think of the hymn I wrote on it, and the Good Samaritan brings back memories of my sermon which upset a lot of people in their compcaency when I pointed out that the story may not actually mean what we seem to think.

But thank you for sharing them.

Being a good Methodist, and avoiding the demon drink, we use grape juice for communion.

Z said...

I usually remember to have a bottle of wine and a box of wafers (I prefer bread myself, wafers are too polite) in hand, but I've been so busy I forgot and, having put myself down both to help the sidesman and to do coffee, it felt a bit last straw-like. The Gospel passage I put in its entirety because that was the reading, but it's the first part that was the relevant bit. The Corinthians passage was the reading at my mother's funeral, which she chose. That wasn't the reason I read it in the morning though, I happened to open the book at that page.

Z said...

Martina, thank you, but you are genuinely too kind there. I'm a good friend only in fits and starts, because I might gallop on to the next thing and not notice I'm still needed.

PI said...

Re the earlier part of the post - 'Thank God for Al!' - as I say almost every day.
Hang on in there ducks.

Dandelion said...

Do you believe in coincidences, z?

Z said...

Thanks, Pat

They happen rather more often than miracles, Dand. After what happened to me in the Seychelles in 1973, I will never deny the power of coincidence.

The Boy said...

I grew up in the methodist tradition as well Dave (Dad was a preacher). Having maried into the CoE I must say I am rather particular to a nice communion wine. Sets the tone nicely I think. Would like to know your interpretation of the good samaritain though!

Glad the day improved Z. The news must have been a shock.

Z said...

At the cathedral, they use a rather impressive white port. It reduces the symbolism somewhat though.

Yes, I'd like to know what Dave can tell us on the subject. I suspect he's too busy at present, unless he has his notes to hand on the computer...?

Dave said...

Well, in brief, look at the story in the round. Is it really saying, as we seem to say far too often, that Jesus is telling us to be good to people and God will love us?

The story starts with the lawyer asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus tells him to care for anyone he meets in need.

Really? Justification by works? That's not what the rest of the NT teaches.

So. Perhaps the lawyer thinks: 'I personally must care for the needs of any and everybody I meet. That's impossible. Can't be done.'

'Right' says Jesus. 'You can't buy God's favour. That's the amazing thing about free grace. You can get to heaven not by your good deeds, but through faith.'

'Oh, and once you've understood that love of God for you - now go out and show it to your neighbours.'

That's a brief summing-up of a 15 minute sermon, from memory.

Z said...

Thank you very much, dear Dave. I should very much like to hear your sermons and when you're snapped up as a relief minister (during an interregnum or whatever), I will be sure to come and be uplifted by your preaching.

(I completely mean that, by the way, I'm neither being sarcastic nor ingratiating)

The passage seems to go quite well with Paul's too, doesn't it? That is, the Samaritan practised what he didn't even preach whilst the priest preached and didn't put his words into practice.

It all comes back to love, in the sense of agape - which used to be translated as charity but now that word means something else. I'm most interested in the loving your neighbout as yourself. I think most of us are too hard on ourselves. Not I, of course, I give myself credit and debit as due. I also *cough* think that God loves me, whatever I do.

Dave said...

I hope, by Christmas, to be allowed to start preaching again, in and around the Norwich area.

Z said...

Good-oh.

Gordie said...

I always thought the crucial part of that parable was verse 29, when the expert (justifying himself) asks who is my neighbour? and Jesus explains that to hate all but the right folks isn't good enough for God.

Dandelion said...

Crucial! (as Lenny Henry used to say)