Thursday, April 23, 2009
Letters from Scotland -2
Do you remember that first task you set us? It turned out to be one of the saddest but yet one of the gladdest of my life. Eager to make a start, I scanned the question. Looked easy enough – one word answer required, simple task: read straight through the Gospel of Mark and share with the group one word which sums up the person of Jesus portrayed there. I start out. Mark’s story unfolds. I feel inexplicably sad and tired; I realize Jesus is a stranger to me. The tiredness I feel is sharply contrasted with the energy of Jesus. I notice the organizational skills of Jesus, the manager of the apostles and shake my head at myself, realizing how firmly entrenched in my commercial world I am. I choose "tireless" as my word to describe him. I turn to the sharing of the rest of the class and feel challenged by the words offered by others and wonder if these are the ones I could truthfully have chosen. Their words imply relationship and I sadly realize my word is that of an observer, an outsider, not of someone in relationship with Jesus. The words hang there on the screen – loving, compassionate, kind, humble, they have written. Then one catches my eye – happy. The tears well in my eyes.
One of the prayers that I used to make over a long period in the years easily twenty to thirty years before I began the course was “Say but the word and I shall be healed.” Underlying the prayer was the desperate feeling that I was isolated from God, that I would never find him. Sometimes the prayer would take on an almost taunting tone – you could heal me if you really wanted to. One word is all it would take. One word was in fact all it did take!
In that instant when I saw that word – happy – inscribed there in front of me and, just as I was beginning to think that was the last word I would ever choose because my experience of religion did not seem exactly happy, I was suddenly stopped in my tracks and that spine tingling moment of realization was there – an epiphany if you like – I was back hearing myself saying that prayer....say but one word....and there it was right in front of me – one word – happy. God had found someone to speak it for him and I heard in it love, care, peace, joy, an invitation – and happiness. A deeply humbling moment; a heartfelt prayer was answered. I was learning to listen. You were teaching me.
For some reason a prayer of Janet Erskine Stuart’s began to sound in me. Mother Stuart writes her all-affirming prayer at the end of a long poem inspired by words of Julian of Norwich: His appearing shall be sweet.
I know that when the stress has grown too strong
Thou wilt be there
I know that when the waiting is too long
Thou hearest prayer
I know that through the crash of falling worlds
Thou holdest me
I know that life and death and all are Thine
Sweet is His appearing indeed. Like Julian, Mother Stuart captures the homeliness and courtesy of His presence to us – holding, hearing, being there - in life, in death, in all, forever.
From your student, Jane, in Scotland