22nd March 2021 – Rev Paul Bettison
“What would not I give to wander
Where my old companions dwell?
Absence makes the heart grow fonder;
Isle of Beauty, fare thee well!”.
Whilst it had been around for a couple of centuries, ‘Absence makes the heart grow fonder’ was a phrase that, in 1844, Thomas Haynes Bayly popularized it in his poem entitled ‘Isle of Beauty’. It was an ode addressed to a place. Yet it seems that it was a place where his ‘old companions dwelt’.
It was saddening, as we moved once more into lock-down, to bid farewell to many of those with whom we shared our lives. But good news; there are signs that, if the road map is to be believed, we will soon be able to wander back into the places where our families, our friends, and our colleagues dwell. It may well be that we find that, as we meet again, our hearts have grown fonder of those from whom we have been physically separated.
Words of W H Auden come to mind;
Distance and duties divide us,
but absence will not seem an evil
if it make our re-meeting
a real occasion.
Come when you can:
Your room will be ready.
The experience of being separated from folk has been challenging and has perhaps prompted us to recognise how important are our relationships with each other.
Could something similar be said about our relationship with, and closeness to, God? If so, the invitation ‘Come when you can: Your room will be ready’ offers reassurance and hope.
If in these past months we have been
saddened by our experience
of being separated
from those whom we like
and those whom we love,
help us to look forward in hope
to a time when we can meet once more.
If we have drifted away from you,
rekindle the fondness of our hearts,
and welcome us back
into a room made ready.
24th March 2021 – Rev Paul Bettison
Can you remember what are quadratic equations? Or the names of all five Bennet sisters in Pride and Prejudice? How about Henry VIII’s wives? And what on earth is the point of pi, again? All questions posed by the author of a book I have on my shelf. Its title, ‘I used to know that’. One of the ‘joys’ of ageing is that of a fading memory. And is there any wonder that, after a lifetime accumulating memories, the recalling of facts, figures, and sundry information is challenging? After all, it is hardly surprising that we find it easier to locate something in a drawer or cupboard that is almost empty than to find it in a drawer that is full!
Does our difficulty in recalling ‘stuff’ mean that we are any the less valuable?
Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg offers an encouraging insight. He reminds us of the story of Moses breaking the tablets on which are engraved the Ten Commandments. You remember (maybe!) that, according to the story, having discovered that the Israelites were worshipping a golden calf, Moses flips his lid and smashes the stone tablets in pieces. Later in the story, new tablets are cut and eventually, placed in the sacred Ark of the Covenant. According to the Talmud (a book of Jewish teaching), so were the fragments of the first set. The Rabbi’s point? Broken and fragmented though they are, the pieces are as precious to God as the whole tablets. So too with memories. He writes “The Talmud teaches that we should have particular respect for old people who’ve forgotten their knowledge because the few remembered embers of the Torah (Law) are as precious to God as the whole sacred canon.”
So, whatever else slips our minds, let us try not to forget that our life and its memories are precious to God.
when my memory fails me,
and I fear that I may be losing the plot,
remind me that your love never fails.
When I forget the things that I have done,
and wonder whether my life has made a positive difference to the world,
remind me that your memory never fails,
and embraces all I have offered and offer still.Amen