Sunday, 16 May 2010

Making an ass of yourself

The BBC recently ran a very interesting radio programme on the philosophy of science. It sounds deadly dull but it was not. The presenter interviewed researchers who spend most of their time in a cubicle peering down a microscope or amassing seemingly never to be used data. The researchers were asked whether they lost their sense of self in this situation and could they still see the bigger picture of what they were working towards, in this case, finding cures for various medicines.

I was taken by one interviewee. He spends much of his time in a wood doing research into the biology of trees or somesuch. He said how fortunate he was. When we are amongst people, he said, we are always stressed to a certain degree as they are demanding something of us. When he is in his wood there is nothing demanded of him and he finds himself blissfully peaceful.

Recently I spent a week in semi rural part of Hertfordshire. I had to be part of a team and also minister ( well, sort of ) a small group of people. I did not sleep well at first and found the demands of a new routine, new people and new challenges a bit wearing. However, I had the days mostly free and found walks along a canal bank with birdsong, greenery and the company of a pair of donkeys that I found in a field nearby restored whatever the demands of the week took away. This is not the first time I have found these chaps therapeutic.

Of course all this is something our Lord knew all to well. Retreating to the quiet of the hills was how he coped with the demands of the people he was ministering to as in Mark 6.46. As Christians we have all been given ministries and a responsibility to others. However, we have all, I believe, been given a responsibility to preserve ourselves. Incidentally, this is why donkeys are so ‘stubborn’ sometimes and will not go where they are led. It is because apparently they have an acute awareness of situations that might endanger them eg they see the danger of the mountain ledge they are asked to travel along. We humans, however, go blithely on putting ourselves under more and more stress, taking on punishing schedules until sometimes we crack. In the light of this I am not sure why we use the word donkey as a simile for stupidity!! I rather like the fact that donkey was our Lord’s preferred means of transport apart from Shanky’s pony of course.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Bit part player

I was in the actors' church in Covent Garden, the atmosphere of which I find very prayerful, and was looking at the plaques of all the famous actors who are remembered here. I came across this sign. How rarely I thought do you hear of people especially in the arts, where big egos can be the norm, who are willing to be well down the cast list. It is election week and on Monday I went to the hustings and I listened to three men, Brown, Cameron and Clegg, who want to take on the biggest part in UK.

I then thought of Ananias who has pretty much a walk on part in Acts ( 9.10 to 17) to anoint Saul to his ministry as Paul. After that he just gets a commendation from Paul and that is it as least as 'reviews' go. What I like is that Ananias who is called via a vision is immediately up for the work though he does show a bit of nerves at the part he is asked to play. Who wouldn't considering Saul's reputation for repression of Christians?

What I have found important in life is that we do not take on situations beyond our ability. I work with a woman who every year takes on a role that is wrong for her. She flaps, panics and makes life for herself and those around her difficult. When she takes on or is given a lesser role she is relaxed and good company but in the harder role she is stressed and not good company.
Basically, she goes beyond herself.

God knows what Ananias and Paul are capable of. The small role he plays is important. It is possible that Ananias was the only one brave enough or worthy enough to go and see Paul and he has the honour of anointing one of the greats of Christendom. Also he gets his name in the billing. Not at the top but he is there for sure as an enthusiastic player of small parts.