What makes Good Friday, good?

 

What makes Good Friday, good?

 

Good Friday? What on earth makes such a day good?

Celebrating the hideous death of a good man, and the craven flight of his supposedly loyal followers?

Or the fact that we at the other side of the story know the ending?

Imagine how that day must have been for those involved. The disciples scattered, all their dreams and hopes in tatters, fearing for their own lives. Only a few, like Jesus’ mother, and John(according to some) daring to stay and watch, weeping as someone they loved died a slow and excruciating death; the rest hiding and quivering at every footfall that came near their door.

The veil in the temple was torn as Jesus died, torn in two against the weave of the cloth, and the sky became dark, if you believe the Gospels. It must have seemed that the world was ending, or was close to the end, to the friends and family who had seen the rise and the promise of Jesus’ ministry. Their own deaths would follow soon, hunted down by the authorities and exterminated as subversive vermin.

I’ve often thought about what Jesus himself felt, whether he knew the ending of the story, or whether, like his friends, he had no idea how things would pan out. I’m never sure how much accretion the Gospels contain, of things attributed after the event. But whatever the case, to go through death, and the cruel death by Roman-style crucifixion……the agony is beyond imagining. Few people will ever experience such pain, such anguish.

My own experience of pain and of internal anguish are tiny in comparison and yet, they give me a slight insight into the experience, which is the most anyone can hope for. My struggles with despair, depression and anxiety, are nothing and yet, they bring me the gifts of compassion and empathy. When I suffer my Good Fridays, as I do periodically, I never know for sure that there will be, this time, an Easter morning, that I will rise again. Experience and knowledge tell me there will be and yet, I doubt it. Each crisis is like the first, the only crisis, as I live through it. I try to record my passage through times like these in poetry and in prose in the hopes that I can remind myself of the promise of resurrection, and that others too might find hope in it.

Good Friday

(me to Jesus/Jesus to me)

Nail me to that cross again

Why don’t you?

You’ve done it before

And you’ll do it again.

Here, I’ll even hold

My hands out for you,

Pass the hammer,

Hold the nail steady.

Bang! It’s done,

All over, bar the shouting.

Long day, arms outstretched,

Breath ragged, pain white hot.

Sky darkens, night begins.

Death, a relief, a release,

The cool of the tomb

A simple comfort, unexpected

After the heat of the day.

Comfort too in acceptance

Of the inevitable, peace even.

Sleep now: the worst is over.

Maundy Thursday ~ calm before the storm and a sense of foreboding

 

Maundy Thursday ~ calm before the storm and a sense of foreboding

 

Some years ago now, I wrote a poem that still haunts my own memory, if that doesn’t sound too self-obsessed. I was walking home late at night after attending a Maundy Thursday vigil and as I walked through our quiet village, I smelled lamb cooking at the Indian takeaway and it set a train of thought running that resulted in me coming in and scribbling down the following prose poem.

Gethsemane Girl

It’s a still night, the warm air filled

With the hot greasy scent of a thousand meals.

Glad I didn’t have to cook tonight;

I know lamb is traditional but it seems so unfair:

That little life cut short just for us.

I shouldn’t be here; they said no.

He didn’t, of course; he never does.

But I’m here anyway.

Maybe he knows; they don’t.

Look at them, sleeping like babies!

He wasn’t himself tonight, seemed sad.

Someone said he’s paranoid,

Expecting betrayal at any moment.

Won’t be me”, that’s what Peter said.

He can’t help boasting but it’s sad.

He’s like a big hairy dog pretending to be brave-

One sniff of a wolf and he’d be off!

Anyway, I’m worried.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned,

It’s this: men can’t be trusted.

I shouldn’t be here: but someone should,

And since they’ve all dozed off

There’s only me, wide-awake in the bushes.

Nothing I can do but wait;

This mood of his will pass,

It always does.

But he does look so sad

And I wish-

But that’s not to be.

I’m so tired too.

I don’t know why I’m here;

I don’t understand half of what he says

But while he says it, it sounds so right.

Pity not everyone agrees.

If I close my eyes, just rest them, mind,

Just for a moment or two.

It’s been such a long day.

I won’t sleep, not like the others.

Not sleeping, just resting my eyes,

Just-

I’d been thinking about the other ‘actors’ in that drama so many centuries ago, wondering how they’d seen it all, living it moment by moment without knowing the eventual outcome. I identified with those shadowy figures that we hear mentioned and who played a pivotal role in the Easter story and yet whose own voices have never been heard. As I smelled the hot curry smell, I thought about the women who cooked and cared for Jesus and the disciples and started wondering what they had truly been thinking, that night before the Passover, so many centuries ago. We don’t know who they all were, Mary Magdalene is often suggested as one of the inner circle; she has always struck me as girl with resources and I began to wonder whether she would have sneaked after the disciples who were invited to pray with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

So into that darkened garden I crept, my hands still slightly greasy with lamb fat and olive oil from the shared meal and my eyes heavy with tiredness. I knew things were changing, sensing the storm coming like a weather sense, and yet, hoping and hoping that nothing bad was going to happen.

While I wrote the poem some years ago, at the time, I could also sense changes coming, unable to pinpoint them. It took longer for the storm to hit, and my life to be altered beyond anything I imagined, but like Mary in that garden, I knew something was coming.

Now, six or seven years later, I approach Maundy Thursday with the renewed sense of something coming. It’s still far off, I think, but I can feel it, like a summer storm you can feel even when the sun is brilliant and there’s not a cloud to be seen except that dim dark line at the far horizon. I’m not sure whether this is good or bad coming, but change in any way is unsettling and shakes you up.

I’m trying to remember my Gethsemane Girl, hiding in the bushes and not knowing the end of the story, and trying to tell her, Be strong, it changes everything beyond what you ever imagined possible.

 

Epiphany Sermon-the baptism of Christ

Another “guest post” from my husband.  By the way, he’s not twisting my arm to post these, it’s more the other way round; I feel they need to be read by more people than the average congregation holds.    

Isaiah 42:1-9 ¶ Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

5 ¶ Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it: 6 I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness. 8 I am the LORD, that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to idols. 9 See, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth, I tell you of them.

Acts 10.34-43 34 ¶ Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, 35 but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. 36 You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all. 37 That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; 40 but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. 42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. 43 All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Matthew 3:13 ¶ Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”

———————————————–
Do you remember your baptism? I don’t and I suspect most of you won’t. You were probably a baby at the time. But whether or not you remember the water, the effects are with you now. The power of baptism is eternal. It’s batteries never run out. It never needs re-charging or re-doing.

This was a big thing when I was at college training for the priesthood. Some of my fellow students wanted to remember their baptism like those who are baptised as adults can. They also wanted the experience of full immersion baptism.  

The college though was against this. The previous principle had even promised to expel anyone that had themselves re-baptised. 

You see this isn’t an issue about a good spiritual experience. Something to strengthen the faith. This is about trusting in God’s promises and in His eternal power. 

By being re-baptised they were in effect saying that their first baptism hadn’t worked. That God’s action was somehow deficient because they were not aware of what was going on at the time. It was about a lack of trust in God and a complete lack of faith in His Church. 

But that leads to the question of why so much fuss over a bit of water or a quick dip in a swimming pool?

Well by our baptism we are full members of God’s church. All of God’s promises are claimed by us, or for us if we are a little baby. From that moment onwards God is with us, working in us. We are part of the Church everywhere. And not just the Church of England, the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches also accept your baptism. Sadly, that can sometimes be one of the few things we end up agreeing on! 

In baptism you are spiritually joined to Jesus. You share in his baptism, crucifixion and resurrection. 

So God is in you and with you; a part of you. But let’s get back to those fellow students of mine at theological college, good people, that wanted an experience. They were wrong – but I can sympathise. 

They were committing their lives, and those of their immediate family, to the service of God’s church. They had given up their jobs, careers, home and familiar church family. They were in a strange college. They had faith but they were weak, like all of us and like me. They were also anxious, and in need of reassurance. They wanted some sign or at least some experience that would calm their nerves. A powerful spiritual experience that would help see them through the years to come. 

They, like me and I suspect like you, had faith but also like each of us, they probably had doubts, sleepless nights and worries about the future.  

I know this is true for me, all of the time. I have faith, I trust but I also have doubts and fears. And the more important the situation the greater my temptation to doubt. 

I believe, (Lord) help my unbelief”! This should be my motto! It is the words of the father of a sick child to Jesus, recorded in Mark 9:23: “I believe, (Lord) help my unbelief”!  

This is what the experience of the Christian faith is about. What it is really about. It is a struggle between belief and unbelief. Sometimes it is easy to believe, things may be going well. Church is good, people are getting along and life feels good. 

Then without warning our belief seems less solid. We are tempted to stop our illogical belief. This is particularly strong when things go wrong. When we are ill, lose someone close to us, or our job… the list goes on and on. We are knocked off balance. All our sure belief seems to vanish like a mirage. But God is there. Like with baptism, He is eternal, all powerful and he never gives up, even with us; even with me! 

Now this is not to say that doubt is a bad thing. I think it is essential for the growth of a healthy faith. But that is for a different sermon on another day, perhaps the Feast of St. Thomas.  

Doubt may not be wrong but unbelief, the feeling of our faith crumbling, can be destructive. It can destroy us. Particularly when we pretend to ourselves that it isn’t happening. That is why that cry to God, “I believe, help my unbelief!” is so important. We admit our weakness. And turn to God for strength. We turn to him even when it seems as though he is not there at all.  

When I resigned my living 4 ½ years ago. I left because I was disgusted by the way the church organisation was treating people. I had given my life to the church but I could no longer continue to serve it. It was a dark time. But facing my unbelief in God’s ability to work through an, Oh so fallible church, was a first step to seeing how I may be able to serve again. I may be coming out the other side again.  

And you are part of that. Bishop Graham, bishop Richard, Fr. Roger, the people at Corton and you here in this Church, have all helped. You were one of God’s answers to my cry, “I believe, help my unbelief”. 

That simple cry is one small step out of our unbelief, our fear and our doubts.  

So, “I believe, (Lord) help my unbelief”.

 

In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

Darkness is Uncreated Light

 

Darkness is uncreated light

 

The last few weeks have been a hard time for me; physical health issues following an operation a week before Christmas became compounded with my cycle of spiralling through periods of low and high mood, and came to a head on Christmas Eve. For days I sat and read through tweets and Facebook status posts about how excited everyone was and all they were doing and felt dislocated and isolated. It had been a close run thing that I was able to be at home for Christmas; the post operative infection was near to sending me back to hospital to be tied to an IV drip of antibiotics. But the collective excitement and frenetic happiness that the outside world seemed to be presenting to me did not cheer me. In fact it just brought home to me quite how false most human celebrations actually are. What is at the core of them may not be false but not that many get to the core. The tinsel and the cake are just external manifestations of that core and mean nothing in themselves(except perhaps calories and expense.)

On Christmas Eve, it started to coalesce into a painfully clear-eyed understanding of the whole concept of depression. The essay I wrote at that time may be posted at some stage; a few people have read it in its current form but since the overall theme was written from a place of immense pain, I am not certain it would benefit many to read it as is.

The nub of the essay was that depression is a product of the removal(whether willing or not) of the usually unseen barrier between true objective external reality and the reality that lives inside our minds. This is something that happens at times of great grief or disappointment in particular. When someone dies, we cannot pretend(at least, not for long) that they are still with us; when we fail to get the job we were sure was ours we cannot carry on as if we did. Other triggers are common; how we look, our talents and skills, our relationships and so on, often do not match what we have in our heads. Clinical depression is often described as being a result of chemical imbalances in the brain but even this is not being backed up by conclusive research. Not to mention the whole chicken and egg conundrum: which came first, the imbalance or the depression?

I spent much of Christmas Eve either crying or fighting tears. This isn’t that unusual; when I have been in this space before, for the same reasons of the veil between the realities being suddenly absent, it usually takes going through the pain to come out on the other side. The fact that it was Christmas, the time when everyone is meant to be happy smiling bunnies, was at once a major contributing trigger to the epsiode in the first place and at the same time, something that just added continuous fuel to the pain. I know I was ill, feverish and in pain, and anxious, and that this was probably why it happened then and not at some stage in the future when I cannot hold the dark matter of reality apart from the marshmallow world of sweetness inside my head.

But there were things to be done and I did them. My husband put up the Christmas tree and the decorations and as I looked around the house, transformed from its workaday look, a tiny feeling of release began. OK, so the two realities didn’t match; but for a while, it simply didn’t matter as much. Christmas Eve picked up slowly. I managed to eat a little. I felt a tiny bit better. And when Christmas Day dawned, I was weary but all right, and the day had a quiet holiness about it and as a family we had a good day. Boxing Day we went to visit my family, about two hours drive away, and stayed there till yesterday afternoon. It was fine, pleasant and good to be with people I loved.

Last night, as I was trying to settle to go to bed, I picked up the prayer book that sits by my bed. I do not have a regular discipline concerning either prayer or prayerful reading; I sabotage myself every time I have tried for the last 30 or more years. I figure that I need to follow the flow of my life, not something dictated by another person. The book is the Celtic Daily Prayer, a book from the Northumbria community in the north of England. Look them up if it interests you. I probably dip into this book a couple of times a week, and usually find that the words move me. The words for Christmas Day sprang off the page for me:

Do not be afraid to walk in darkness for I am uncreated light. I will cause you to look on darkness and not be afraid.

It speaks of several kinds of darkness but the last lines of the passage carried most power for me:

The darkness of despair and unanswered questions may require that we reach out and hold His hand in the darkness, even by faith, and just keep on walking.

In the end, surviving depressive episodes for me have to be about keeping on walking, holding a hand that is unseen and unfelt and having faith that however alone I feel in it, there truly is One who is there when nobody else can be.

 

To believe, to have faith and to know

OED definitions:

of BELIEVE:  accept as true; as speaking truth; think; suppose.

of BELIEVE IN:  have faith in the existence of; feel sure of the worth of

of FAITH: reliance, trust: belief in religious doctrine; loyalty, sincerity

of KNOW: have in one’s mind or memory; feel certain; recognise; be familair with; understand

I am not sure how the dictionary definitions are going to be of much use here but then I did use the OED popular version. I was talking with my husband about issues of faith and what the difference was between faith and belief and we came to an interesting conclusion that dictionary definitions notwithstanding, they are not the same thing at all. Someone can believe in God(or the Universe) but not have faith in him. And as for  know, well it all came unravelling even further.

To me(and in the end, that’s what a blog is about, being able you share one’s own thoughts and opinions) I don’t have to believe in something I know. For example, I know that the speed limit in my street is 30 mph. I don’t believe it: I know it. It’s a matter of fact, not opinion. I know that the elephant is the world’s largest land mammal alive on earth at the moment; this is not up for dispute, it’s a simple fact. The fact that larger mammals live in the sea is not part of the statement, or that larger creatures used to live. I don’t BELIEVE that the elephant is the largest land mammal: I KNOW it. This is what makes me such a curmudgeon about matters of belief, because so many matters attached to belief are actually matters of facts, of information: of dates and times and names and so on. When the Christian church was founded, what languages the Bible had been translated from and to, the problems with damaged and missing texts, the issue of ancient agendas (example: until Constantine(I think, but do correct me if I am wrong) reincarnation was an accepted sideshoot of doctrine, but this didn’t suit politics at the time, because peasants who thought they’d go to Hell for ever after ONE life alone were more malleable) and of cultural issues of the times (example: St. Pauls insistance on keeping women submissive was purely a product of his culture. The whole issue of women covering their heads was down to the fact that at the time only prostitutes went bareheaded in public: ergo a matter of decency and not of doctrine) These are some things that I KNOW about the early church and while they’re up for interpretation to some degree, they’re not up for denial. There are whole churches that base their treatment of women on St Paul’s letters; in all honesty, I feel the poor man would be horrified at this. I think also thisis why Jesus never wrote anything down; and the fact that the four gospels have differing accounts of the events of Jesus’ life is simply an illustration of differing witness accounts, that phenomenon that bamboozles cops everywhere. There are other gospels that are not canonical that tell marvellous(and probably totally fictional) accounts of Jesus’s boyhood. I have a copy of a translation of the Gnostic gospels that makes entertaining reading if nothing else!

The thing is for me that we are beings of mind, body, spirit and soul and I hate to see people abandon or neglect one at the expense of the others. Healing is about wholeness and balance and when we neglect one aspect of our being we invite not only imbalance but illness.

The Parable of the Goldpanner

The Parable of the Goldpanner

 

 

  Once upon a time there was a young man who ran away to seek his fortune. He had heard that men could get rich by mining for gold and so he travelled to the gold fields only to be told that the mines were all but exhausted of gold but he could still find gold by panning for it in the streams that flowed from the mountain. Much gold still remained inside the mountain; indeed, far more remained than had ever been taken out but it had become too dangerous and expensive to go any deeper into the mountain and dig for gold and so men contented themselves with the gold that washed from the heart of the mountain. Indeed, this gold was known to be purer and need less processing before it could be used. In ancient times, the nuggets were simply taken and washed before being skilfully beaten and shaped into rings and cups of astonishing beauty. Now, gold that had been mined had to be crushed and heated and treated with dreadful chemicals to extract the pure gold and by the time the finished product was ready it had cost almost as much to produce as it was now worth.

   On his first day the young man stood knee deep in the icy waters that rushed from the heart of the mountain and panned and panned till his back ached and his feet and legs became numb with the cold. All the while he squinted into his pan and every so often he would shout out with excitement and pick out something and stuff it swiftly into his leather pouch. At the end of the day, he ran, tired and cold as he was to the Valuer’s tent and poured out his day’s finds expecting to go home to his family that day, rich beyond belief. A long silence followed that was followed by a low rumble of laughter, first from one man and then from all the men present.

  “Why are you laughing?” he asked, bewildered and angry that they should mock him so.

  “Because all you have found here is Fool’s Gold,” said the Valuer, wiping his eyes of tears of mirth. “Every man here did this on his first day. Until you know what gold really looks like, you will think that this mineral here is it. Let me show you.”

  The older man pulled from his pocket a small leather bag and extracted from it a small rough lump that shone like the morning sun rising above the hills. It was brighter and somehow purer in colour than the iron pyrites that he had shown the Valuer, and instantly the young man knew what it was he was actually looking for.

  “The old man who taught me gave me that lump so I would know what I was looking for and not be misled by fakes and forgeries. And now I am giving it to you because sometimes when the winter sun fails to shine and you are cold and miserable, you will need to look at the true gold so you can remember what you are seeking,” said the older man. “And one day, you will pass this nugget onto someone else so they too know what they seek.”

  So the young man returned to his icy stream bed and began again. Sometimes he would see a gleam that made his look again but it only took a second before he knew he was once more looking at Fool’s gold and he would sigh and carry on.

  Weeks passed and then months and all the time he carried on looking, his small reserve of money dwindling each day that passed until one day he had no money left to buy food. He looked at the gold nugget the Valuer had given him and considered whether he should sell that so he might eat that day, but after looking at it, he realised that he would maybe one day forget what true gold looked like and be led astray once more. So he put the nugget away and carried on swirling the water and sediment in his pan and suddenly, like the sun coming out from behind a cloud, he saw first one and then another tiny lump of pure gold. All that day he worked and when he trudged back to camp, he had enough gold to sustain him for weeks.

  As the years passed, the young man accumulated gold, and slowly and steadily he grew richer and older until one day, standing knee deep in the water of his stream, his bones started to ache with cold and tiredness like they had never done before and he waded back to the banks of the stream and sat down.

  “All I have had of this stream, I have spent and enjoyed so very little,” he said to himself. “I have bought food and only the necessaries of life. Maybe it is time I began to enjoy the gold I worked so hard for.”

  So packing up his kit he walked back to the camp, which by now had become a small town, and went to the Valuer’s tent to say goodbye to his old friends.

  “I’m going back home,” he told them. “I have enough now that I can support my parents and maybe even marry my sweetheart and start our own family.”

  As he started to leave the tent, a second young man came in. His eyes were filled with feverish excitement that the first young man recognised at once.

  “I’m rich, I’m rich,” shouted the new arrival, pouring out on the Valuer’s table the spoils of his first day’s work.”

  The laughter that had seemed once so mocking now seemed friendly and rueful, the recognition of a mistake the men had all made in the past. The new youngster’s face became red and angry and he seemed almost in tears with frustration.

  “I’ve never seen gold before,” he admitted, sweeping his pile of Fool’s Gold to the floor in his disappointment. “How am I supposed to know if no one has ever shown me?”

  The first young man, no longer so very young or so very foolish, went over to the other man and put his hand out.

  “Here,” he said. “This might help.”

  In his hand was the gold nugget he had once been given to help him know what true gold is.

  “But don’t you need it any more?” asked the newcomer.

  “No,” said the first young man. “You see, after all this time, I think I will always know gold when I see it. And I have found enough gold of my own now to be able to be sure I will always know how to find more if I need it.”

  And so our not-so-young man walked away, and went home to his family richer and dare I say, wiser than when he had set out years before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sin and the art of archery

I’ve been thinking Really Deep Thoughts lately, in between getting annoyed about life and things I can’t do anything about. I’ve been thinking a lot about some of the things that make me annoyed and why they annoy me.

I wrote a few days ago in the comments at retired eagle’s photo blog that I was guilty of the sin of accidie, one of the medieval Seven Deadly sins. It’s basically despair and depression, and it’s something I’ve been guilty of intermittantly since I was about six years old. I know how awful that sounds and I can tell you how often people have told me I should count my blessings etc, but it doesn’t make any diference.

The English word SIN is actually a term taken from archery, that oh-so-English art. Think Agincourt, think Robin Hood: the bow is so entrenched in English lore that even today it’s technically illegal to play football on  Sunday if your parish priest has not excused you from longbow practise. Sin simply means failing to hit the target. It means being less than perfect. It doesn’t mean you’re  a criminal, or an evil person; it just means you need more practise to get it right.

This I find comforting. It also means I need more help to get it right. It doesn’t mean I need to be beaten for getting it wrong and missing the target. Imagine God as a loving archery instructor, standing close as you draw the bow, his hand steadying yours, whispering in your ear, “Bit higher, bit further up, hold it steady. Now!”

You see, it upsets me when people assume that their success in life is as a result of God blessing them, because it then implies the opposite: lack of success is God witholding his blessing. It upsets me when people take their health as a sign God is favouring them because that then says that ill health is God punishing them.

Being alive is our blessing. Life is our gift. I’m not saying that God isn’t blessing you when things go well. He might be. But God has no favourites. Blessing or cursing, it may be the same thing when you step out of time and out of being human. Go read the Book of Job if you have never done so. It might be a bit of a puzzle. It opens up ineffable mysteries(because we don’t effin’ well understand them) about God and his relationship with humans. I have no answers to this.

But for me, today, being a sinner is a good thing. It means I have room for improvement. It means I need to keep practising and spending time with my trainer, and learning more and more how to hit the target. When I get good at that, I guess he’ll just move the target further away to test my skill further, or give me a different bow, or change the parameters in some way. There is always room for improvement, when we realise that sin is not the thing we were taught it was by people who didn’t understand it themselves.