In the middle of March last year, I sat down to write the first in what has become a weekly series; my reflection from The Rectory. That first reflection, for Mothering Sunday, was soon joined by a series of mini-sermons for Palm Sunday, Holy Week and Easter. Little did I expect that I would still be writing these reflections 14 months later. (64 at the last count). So, how do these pieces come to be written?
At times such as Easter, Christmas and Harvest, the topic is a given. Occasionally there is a link to the Sunday gospel, but what about the ordinary times; what prompted a reflection on a snoring hedgehog (June), John Milton’s famous, ‘they also serve who only stand and wait?’ (Feb 21) or St Francis and the muntjac (2 May)?
One simple answer is my wandering mind, restlessly flitting from place to place. Another answer is the interesting story; in all the many hours I have spent gardening, only once have I been distracted by the sound of a hedgehog snoring. Then we have winter darkness, summer light, country walks I have enjoyed; all provide rich material for thought – and prayer.
The earth is the Lord’s, and all that is therein, (Psalm 24). At Christmas, Easter and other major festivals, we expect to hear God speaking; here is the gospel story as we have heard it told and retold over many years. But God is with us all year round. Do we recognise his hand at work in the everyday; the unseasonal darkness of storm clouds gathering on a sunny afternoon; the enthusiastic chirruping of birdsong from the hedgerows; the crisp white of a frosty morning? Do we see God as clearly in the immaculate public garden, and the bramble strewn hedge?
I often find that I get my best glimpse of God when I least expect him. At moments like this, I start with a memory and just see where my thoughts, and my pen, take me. Then the act of writing becomes a sort of mystery tour, or an act of prayer. Our risen Lord is in all his creation. Sometimes all it takes to see him is to stop, look and pray.
Rev Philip Payne
The Pew Sheet for 23rd May can be found here