Tag Archives: sorrow

Annus Horribilis… Annus Mirabilis

life-and-death

I wonder, if like me, you found the reaction to what appeared to be a lot of ‘celebrity’ deaths in 2016 becoming a little bit wearisome. Don’t get me wrong – each person’s death was a cause for sorrow and the contributions that they made to our society as a whole was in many cases huge. No it wasn’t the deaths themselves, but the idea that somehow the year had become an annus horribilis because of them.

Our reaction to death is often based on the longevity of a person’s life. Maybe I noticed it more because as I become older there comes a time when many of the contemporaries that were so much a feature of my youth are reaching what could be considered ‘old-age’; although the biblical standard of three score years and ten has undoubtedly been superseded with the medical advances made over the last two or three millennia. In many cases, therefore, it was a case of mortality catching up.

The days of our life are seventy years,
    or perhaps eighty, if we are strong;
Psalm 90:10

Our frail and feeble frame of a human body, despite being a sophisticated machine that is full of intricate engineering, like any machine will eventually wear out. However, I am also aware that death occurs for many reasons not just age related. For some it is a case of genetic disposition or lifestyle choices. For others it is under tragic circumstance at the hands of another; a life snatched away.

Still, should we call any particularly year more dreadful than another? It’s true that many talented well-known people who contributed a lot very publicly to society did die in 2016, but there were an awful lot more people who died,  who in their own ways did exactly the same, however less publicly, and on smaller scales. In fact according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) in 2012 an estimated 56 million people died worldwide and that figure is similar to all other recent years.

Each of them were beloved mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends…… you fill in the blank… all of whom were equally important. They were people that we loved dearly; had built up strong relationship with, and who will be missed deeply as we realise that they are no longer part of our future.

Of course there are those that die, whose deaths we can find no apparent justification for and our faith is tested. Some people take the view that when God ‘calls’ it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are. However, death comes when it comes, and I am loath to believe in a God who would wish to do this ‘calling’ when it causes such pain and grief; instead thinking of it not as a ‘calling’ but as a ‘welcoming’ when death occurs.

As a Christian, I also believe that when we finally ‘shuffle off this mortal coil’ that the hope that we have through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ means that we will be welcomed into life eternal, in a place called heaven, wherever and whatever that might be. Because life is not just an earthly life, but the life that Jesus came to give us in abundance.

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.
John 10:10

At that stage it will definitely not be an annus horribilis but indeed an annus mirabilis.

where-o-death-blog

 

 

The definition of annus horribilis means a disastrous or unfortunate year, and is complementary to annus mirabilis, which means a wonderful year

Of Being Challenged

We are challenged to look beyond what we know

We are challenged to look beyond what we think we already know

The last few days have been particularly challenging, both in terms of my personal response to events that have happened and reflections on the responses of others to these situations. On the whole the outcome has been positive and hopeful, but this has been at the expense of other’s sorrow and suffering.

Harrowing pictures of the brutal treatment of Christians and Yazidis as they are persecuted for their faith, left me sobbing for the sheer inhumanity of the perpetrators of these violences. The incomprehension that once again genocide rears its ugly head in the name of religious intolerance and I feel powerless…

Yet, the response of many has been to speak out and simply say ‘It’s not right” and that we will do something about it. Whilst I am not in a position to honestly know whether military intervention is part of a solution; I do know that humanitarian airdrops of food and water were the correct immediate response to alleviate some of the suffering. I also know that the emergency appeals by charities such as Christian Aid for donations enable us all to ‘do’ something towards long-term solutions; and of course there is always prayer.

The outpouring of sorrow for all of the unknown and nameless victims of these atrocities has been matched this week by the sorrow and sadness of the passing of one whom we felt we really did know, the actor Robin Williams. His death has brought to our attention the devastating and often silent suffering of those for whom depression is the ‘black dog’ that they have to live with on a daily basis.

Social media sites and newspapers have been full of messages of condolences and self-identification and some, in their genuine sadness and sense of mourning have inadvertently used phrases and ideologies in their expressions of sympathy, that although well-meaning have highlighted a lack of understanding of suicide and depression. I have personally been humbled to reflect on things that are helpful to say and things that are not, and have learned immensely from those who have challenged these unintentional faux pas.

The fact is that sometimes we all need to challenge what isn’t right, and this Sunday I will be preaching on the story of the Syrophoenician woman who dared to speak out and challenge Jesus because she knew in her heart of hearts that he was the one who could heal her child whether she was Jew or a Gentile, simply because of her faith in him

Then Jesus said to her,“O woman, your faith is great – Matthew 15:28

So I will continue to hold all of these situations in my prayers and whenever possible look for ways to challenge both mine and other people’s assumptions, but hopefully to do so in love.

Have faith that all will be well

Have faith that all will be well

If you are living with depression or care for someone who does you may find this helpful – I Had A Black Dog

Bearing the Cross

Embroidered cross on altar frontal, St Peter's, Dyrham

Embroidered cross on altar frontal, St Peter’s, Dyrham

As a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief
your only Son was lifted up
that he might draw the whole world to himself.
May we walk this day in the way of the cross
and always be ready to share its weight,
declaring your love for all the world.

The above forms part of a prayer of thanksgiving for Morning Prayer during Passiontide, and as we move into Holy Week and having this morning been given a palm cross,  my thoughts have moved towards just exactly what it might mean for each of us to bear our cross… or even crosses.

If we are incredibly lucky, we might feel that our lives are pretty carefree, we have everything to meet our basic needs; food, water, shelter. Our emotional needs are also met through our families and friends  and we may even have a sense of financial security – a bit of spare cash to indulge in treats from time to time. Our crosses, although apparently light, are still with us however.  Outward crosses that carry responsibility to everyone around us. How can we not declare our love to the world?

Often, as well, we carry internal crosses. The things that we choose to bear alone; things that we are ashamed of doing and saying; things that might diminish us in other people’s eyes; things that are not hidden away from God, and who alone knows the sorrow in our hearts and our desire for repentance. How can we not allow ourselves to be uplifted?

For many people though, the cross they have to bear, like Jesus’, is an enormous weight of worries, hurts and strains. Often it is borne in situations that are not of their making or problems from which they can see no way of escape. Daily life is a struggle and at times unbearable. How can we not offer to share their load?

For Jesus the way of the cross was one that he decided to take willingly. Yet even as he made his way up to Calvary, his human frailty caused him to stumble, allowing another, Simon of Cyrene to join him in bearing the great physical weight of the wooden cross. What was even more incredible was the immeasurable weight of the world’s wrongdoings, sorrows, grief and hatred that he also chose to bear. How can we not be grateful?

We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you;
by your holy cross, you have redeemed the world

The Way Of The Cross To Calvary - embroidered panel by Sue Symons. One of 35 panels that form the Bath Abbey Diptychs

The Way Of The Cross To Calvary – an embroidered panel by Sue Symons from her exhibition “One Man’s Journey To Heaven”, one of 35 panels that form the Bath Abbey Diptychs*

*Sue Symons explains that the large black circle depicts the weight of the cross and the white circle is Christ, diminished in size as he bears its horrendous weight. http://www.bathabbey.org/whats-on/events/bath-abbey-diptychs