Saturday, February 10, 2024

Thought for the Day January 17th 2024

I’ve always felt a kind of appalled fascination at the description Matthew’s Jesus presents in this passage, the “Little Apocalpyse” which takes us into an unimaginable future, which will arrive – who knows when? Not as soon as Matthew expected, for sure. He was surrounded by all the baggage of a struggling community and in this writing wanted to give them a rationale for their suffering, a sense that it had purpose and direction….

More, he wanted to make sure they were alert – to both the pain and the potential of the moment, - and in doing so, paints such a vivid picture of a community oblivious to the dramatic events unfolding in their midst.

For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all too will be the coming of the Son of Man”

It’s so easy to imagine life going on as normal – Happy couples celebrating their wedding night...Families gathering around the dinner table...while all the while the world was changing around them.

Indeed, it’s hard to work out what people might more properly do.

Remember those last weeks of February 2020 – that half term break when families headed determinedly to Italy, obstinately refusing to accept that the tide of covid was rising so fast and so high that it might yet sweep all away…?

When confronted by crisis, we tend to seek comfort in the familiar...and that’s both understandable and acceptable up to a point.

But there comes a moment when surely nobody, NOBODY can ignore the lie of the land...When carrying on regardless seems an act not of courage but of wanton stupidity. Jesus makes it clear to his friends that there WILL be signs – and highly dramatic ones at that. Only the foolhardy will choose to ignore them, to pretend that there’s nothing to see here….

As we continue our journey through Epiphany, it’s still all about seeing...and allowing what we see to change and shape us…

I find myself transported unexpectedly back to my childhood, and to the large crucifix that hung outside a local church…As we travelled home by bus, I would find myself on eye level with the words carved beneath

Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?”...and something in the power of word and image arrested me every time, making it impossible to look away….

But how often we choose that route…

On Sunday’s dog walk in the park I was accosted by a man who was clearly highly disturbed and anything but happy. He was standing next to the tennis courts, swearing voluably at those playing and at all those walking past. I managed to skirt round him on the way out, but as I headed homeward his imprecations became harder to ignore.

EFF YOU...and your dog!”

I paused, uncomfortable, out of my depth, but realising that avoidance was no longer a workable strategy. He was just a few feet away...his anger and distress at the world hitting me in waves. I stopped, offered him a few clumsy words to convey that I had at least tried to listen to his pain

He spotted my collar

You a priest?”...His hand went into his pocket. I froze. Was he going to pull out a knife? No – a fistful of coins...”Take them. Go on. TAKE THEM”…

Which is why I have a single penny in my coat pocket...the least I could get away with taking, but somehow enough to satisfy him.

As I moved away, one of the guys playing tennis nearby called over to me

IGNORE HIM. Don’t engage with him. Don’t looks as if you’ve seen him”

But I did. He was there. I couldn’t look away – and in actually seeing him, saw something of Christ in pain in his broken, suffering child…

Is it nothing to you?

Before we see the Son of Man coming in clouds and great glory, we need to learn to see him in the broken, the weary, the discomforting situations of our here and now.

Behold and see”…

In this season of Epiphany may we see indeed – may we read the signs of the times and respond before its too late.

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