Thanks be to God – Part four

On my last full day in Canada, I visited an antiques market and bought a print of a small child, carrying a teddy bear and a basket, exploring a hedge lined lane which twisted away in front of her. Where was she travelling to? We don’t know, any more than we know what’s round the corner in our lives. Maybe it was the promised land, the land of milk and honey.

I’m sure there are many who think of Canada in that way: Canada with its marvelously innovative domestic architecture huddled in the shade of trees; its conserved, ultra-clean naturalness; the glory of Niagara falls joining two worlds; the plains and forests of Ontario; the artists, musicians and hippies of Montreal ever calling us to something more; and its wildlife – I’m thinking of the rabbits and squirrels which kept me company on the deck of my holiday home, and helped tantalise my brain with scattered thoughts over pots of Arabica and “halal” (eh?) Taiwanese longan honey and croissants at the equivalent of Bds$8 for 12! And then, the racial mix of people from all over, happily co-existing proudly for Canada, and at least exchanging manners with each other as if it was the most inevitable thing in the world. Nor in any place have I ever seen so many loving couples of different races. I’m so glad for them. It’s the great gift of my life too. In fact, I was so taken with it all that I asked my Canadian host: “Does anyone actually die in Canada?” H’mm.

But yes, the land of milk and honey. It’s why I pressed some of its wild flowers in a book, and lumped a clump of amethyst from Lake Superior home in my suitcase with two fir cones for company. To touch them now, in its quirky way, is to touch that land somewhere between the “river of Egypt” and the Euphrates.
I suppose that all of us on times become conscious that there’s something missing from our lives which, if only we could find it, would complete who we truly are, our truest selves. I guess the little child in my print was, in her innocence, searching for it too. Do you dare follow her? For many of us, though we “know all the words and sung all the notes, we never quite learned the song”. There’s always something more.

For some Christian folk the ‘promised land’ will only ever be found after death. For the Buddhist, the seeds of it are already within us and we only have to find our Bodhi tree and wake up. For the poet, it’s the “holy city of Byzantium”. For some, like Martin Luther King Jr, it may rest in a vision from the mountain top – the glory of the coming of the Lord in the escape from a vile discrimination. For some, it’s confronting the slavery of our conditioning which holds us back. For others still, it can only be found in acceptance as God-loved, authentic, human beings. And it’s with all of these that the Christian priest must stand in Jesus’ name, as the priest of the streets if his priesthood is to mean anything at all. He’s the guardian of God’s rainbow children – who, in all our weaknesses, are really all of us.

Which brings me to what I said at the Pride March. I’ve yet to read an accurate and complete version but, for record purposes, this is what I said. You can check the YouTube recording ‘Barbados Pride 2018’.

“You’re all beautiful. The swollen rivers are flooding the great estuaries of the world into the open sea. There’s no stopping it. Impure minds won’t stop it. Fake arguments won’t stop it. Legions of Pharisees won’t stop it. The armies of Mara won’t stop it. The roaring lion won’t stop it. And some silly words written in a book thousands of years ago won’t stop it.

“It’s here now, as it’s always been as part of the natural order of things. It’s the song of the universe. Don’t misuse it. Don’t abuse it. It’s called love. And don’t let anyone bully you, or torment you, or tyrannise you. They’ve had their day. Yours is now and tomorrow, and forever. Speaking as priest, I say welcome and welcome always to the flock of Christ. And fear not – for it’s your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. God bless you.”

“Mara” is the Buddhist equivalent of our ‘devil’. He is a confusionist who tried to stitch up the Buddha under the bodhi tree, rather as Satan tried to do with Jesus in the wilderness. The “roaring lion” is the “adversary the devil” in 1 Peter 5:8. “Fear not little flock….” are Jesus’ words of reassurance to the disciples in Luke 12:32.
You know – I wouldn’t change a word of it to please the “armies of Pharisees” in this land whatever they call themselves. Hypocrisy fits uneasily in a land of milk and honey – thanks be to God.

Go safely, then – until the next time.

‘Get this’ from the boundary: “We speak in religious language of fire and damnation [but] forget that the two virtues so soundly established in the Old Testament and proclaimed by Jesus in the New are love and compassion.” (Archbishop John Holder).

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