Through a glass darkly – 95

Passion Week

Ich habe angst was the phrase that caught my attention. Denis Lennon used to say that there may be just one thing in sermons through which God speaks to us. And we should concentrate on that phrase or that verse. [And ignore the rest ?] During Passion Week there is by tradition a Newington Churches Together service each day at Craigmillar Park church at 7.45am.  Just a hymn or two and a reading and a reflection by one of the local ministers. Followed by a simple breakfast in the adjoining church hall. I like to try and get there when I wake up in time. And when it’s not raining. It is a tradition whose days are numbered; as the Church of Scotland is currently reorganising itself into a smaller number of linked charges. And Craigmillar Park is one of the churches that has not made the cut. [My suggestion is that it should be water-proofed, filled with water, and then turned into a Diving Centre. But not everyone agrees. It’s more likely to become a block of flats.]

On Wednesday morning the reading was from Mark 11, where Jesus takes Peter, James, and John along with him to the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus is deeply distressed and troubled. He prays to the Father, “… everything is possible with you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” After praying he returns to the disciples and finds them sleeping. He chides them for not being able to stay awake at this critical moment. And then the whole thing happens all over again.

[The Revd Dr] Sandy Forsyth, the minister at Mayfield Salisbury, asked us what we understood when we exchanged the Peace in a Sunday service. Clearly peace is something to which we as Christians aspire. And it is clearly linked to the presence of Jesus. But the Hebrew word shalom means so much more than the absence of fighting. And it is not simply a peace that is guaranteed by the deterrence of two powerful people or two blocs of countries. If Macron’s visit to China encourages the Chinese to broker a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine, which at the moment seems very unlikely, it is not at all clear that a meaningful peace would ensue.

Ich habe angst

On the Tuesday night I was dreaming about Joanna. I was trying to get to a church service in which she was involved. Possibly her wedding ? And I was running late. The church for no obvious reason was underground, beneath the surface life of a busy city. I had to find an entrance down to the underground, and then to find the right tunnel in a series of subways. When I eventually arrived, something was not right. Joanna was wearing a long dress, which might have been a wedding dress. But there was no sign of her husband. And no indication of any service about to start. When I woke out of the dream, the overall feeling was one of disconnection, And disappointment.

There are things in this life, Sandy said, of which we are afraid. Things which disturb us. And that is as true for Christians as for anyone else. He told us about a Jesuit church, St Peter’s in Köln, [the church, I think, where Rubens was baptised], where there is an altar with the inscription Ich habe angst. Meaning, I am fearful. Which some people think is not a very Christian message. But it is a reminder that anxiety, apprehension, insecurity are all common aspects of the human condition. Which are best countered by prayer, and by seeking “the peace of God which transcends all human understanding, and which will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”. [Philippians 4:7]

St. Peter Koeln

I guess that my Tuesday night dream was preparation for Sandy’s Wednesday morning message. Ich habe angst.  Which is something that will not go away quickly. Closure is an unhelpful concept. Which suggests letting go of an event and forgetting it. When the more Christian response is, I think, to invite God into our apprehension and disappointments and fears, and to ask for his peace in our hearts.

Maundy Thursday, 

April 2023

Published by europhilevicar

I am a retired vicar living on the south side of Edinburgh. I am a historian manqué, I worked in educational publishing for 20 years, and after ordination worked in churches in the Scottish Borders and then in Lyon in the Rhône-Alpes. I have a lovely and long-suffering wife, two children, and four delightful grand-children

3 thoughts on “Through a glass darkly – 95

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