Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Sensing Lent 13: Earthen vessels

When in doubt, light a candle. 

That seems like a good motto for a Minister. I didn't always light candles; for at least the first 20 years of my Christian life I would have thought it odd to do so, especially if it was to accompany prayer, which in my world view then, you could do without any physical object assisting you.

I have to admit that once you've started lighting candles it's very difficult to stop. Assuming Richard Rohr is right about the spirituality of the second half of life (see his book Falling Upward, published 2012) I suppose I'm moving from being over conceptualised in Christian practice, to exploring more 'sensed' ways of being (i.e. using the 5 senses). It's what I'm trying to do this Lent anyway).

So, the candle. Once that wick gets going it burns steadily and brightly until the wax runs out. This particular tea light holder, one of a pair, is just perfect. It's made of pottery; a bit worn and grubby by now. There are wax stains down the outside, it's a bit scratched and several of the gold stars are discoloured. But, scratched, grubby and stained, it's still holding the light.

It couldn't be a better picture of what St Paul calls the 'earthen vessels' in which we we carry our treasure (2 Corinthians 4:7). Modern translations give us that treasure in 'jars of clay'. For once I prefer the King James version. Because I know exactly what it feels like to be an earthen vessel. Of the earth. Mortal. It accounts for the gap between any dreams I might have for the church, and the reality of ministry - partial, interrupted, subject to relationship strain, relocation, illness, disorganisation, stress, worry, tiredness and just plain forgetfulness.

Earthen vessels, the bodies and lives we carry on in. Reminders that the all surpassing power belongs, not to us, but to God.

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