Friday, 18 April 2014

Lent 6 - Risky love

Welcome to holy week.

The week we experience it all; the exuberance of Palm Sunday, the righteous anger in the Temple, the last supper of a group of friends, betrayal, denial, torture, suicide, death, grieving, resurrection, new life, joy, questions, doubts, breakfast. What a week!

I was trying to think of a certain quotation about life being a race, and I came across a long list. I think my fave is - 'Life is like a Taxi. The meter keeps ticking whether you are getting somewhere or just standing still.'

A current favourite movie of me and those closes to me is 'About Time'; the story of a man who can time travel, who can repeat time and make it better. This is a totally different world to that of Dr Who as in About Time you can't meet yourself and cause a paradox. Though changing too much can totally change the present. The main character and his Dad (who can also time travel) both have a different ideology as to how to best use the gift and live out each day to the best - I won't tell you how, that's as River Song would say "spoilers"

Last night I was at a Maundy Thursday meal and communion. Based on an Iona liturgy of doubters, betrayers, deniers, all. we had the choice of getting communion from one of four stations with a special liturgy to fit with that character.
     Thomas for those who doubt themselves, others and God,
     Judas for those who betrayed themselves, others and God,
     Peter for those who have denied themselves, others and God,
     and the others, the secret, silent ways we fail, the times we don't wash feet or love others.
It also have 6 stories of the last thing I said to them. Last words are often remembered. What if the last thing you said to someone, was the last thing.

This week's reflection touches on who we journey with. Who have you chosen to journey with. It's risky to travel with people, but even more so to travel alone. Love is risky. Today at the Good Friday service three nails were hammered into the cross, it was a powerful sound. What would it have been like for Jesus' friends to hear, to see.

Jesus chose the ultimate path, my life journey hasn't always been simple, but when you think of Christians in other countries, people in extreme poverty. My life hasn't been hard. Some days I wonder why God has called me to this life path, but then usually one of my friends makes it okay.

I read another blog the other day, written by a mother who says 6 simple words have changed the way she talks to her children. "I love to watch you play"

So to you, my wonderful friends, who I've chosen to journey with.
I love to hear your stories
I love to see your photos
I love to get your emails
I love to stay up all night talking
I love your hugs
and most of all
I love your friendship.

Life is a journey, with its ups and downs, but I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Happy Easter.

Saving God, it is not just that I find it hard to trust you; rather that I don't trust my own judgement.
Sometimes you seem to invite me to choose a path that scares me. Help me to keep close to you, that I may

glimpse you on the path ahead, follow you and find your way today. Amen

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Lent 5 - Risky Chemicals

 As Rach is rather busy, (I'm sure she'll explain all next week) this week you get a guest blog from me - Emma

As a chemical engineer, quite a lot of my day job has a fair bit to do with chemicals.  Shocking, I know.  In writing this week’s blog post, I started to think about one chemical in particular.  Bear with me.  Can you guess what it is?  It’s a non-metal which is pretty abundant, solid at room temperature and is commonly yellow.  It’s known as brimstone in the Bible.  That’s right, it’s sulphur (the last clue clinched it, right?).

Sulphur, although really useful for things like matches (and, actually, living) is pretty nasty stuff.  This is why gases are cleaned of sulphur before they leave a refinery – so that the sulphur can’t escape as SO2 and contribute to greenhouse gases. This means that, through a clever reaction known as the Claus process, the sulphurous gas is heated, the liquid sulphur “condensed” out and the sulphur-free gas allowed to continue.  The sulphur is massed into a stockpile and then shipped around the world.  The liquid sulphur has to be kept hot (i.e. above 150°C) in the pipe so that it doesn’t solidify, and block said pipe.  Once the sulphur has solidified, that’s it.  “He has walled up my way so I cannot pass”, says this week’s Bible link from Job 19:8.  There’s no going back – you’re going to need a new bit of pipe.  To help with this, and to prevent the build-up of any cooling sulphur, the pipes need to be straight.  They may not have bends, even to go around something.  While normal industrial structures look like this:
Image from - one of Burtnysky’s refineries

these sulphur lines, instead of bends, have mini-junctions, like this:
My own sketch

This is so that the pipes can be “rodded” – basically, a massive rod is shoved down the pipe to push all of the sulphur out of the other end.   That’s nice, Emma, I hear you say.  But what does that have to do with Rach’s Lent Blog?

I’ll tell you.  This week’s picture is of a remarkable sculpture by Jonathan Clarke.  It can be found in Ely Cathedral.  

Looking at it, it occurred to me that the journey this sculpture represents is a far cry from that that I see in my every day life – none of the regimented planning that comes with being an engineer.  The path meanders across the wall – sometimes in shadow (the verse from Job continues “... and he has set darkness upon my paths”), sometimes in light, sometimes seeming to bask in the coloured light from the stained glass window (side note: also probably dyed using a sulphur compound...).  It lacks the directness to which I have begun to be accustomed, but I guess the point is that our journeys of faith are never really as simple and straightforward as we’d imagine them to be.

The journey also isn’t always quite as we’d imagined.  Maybe sometimes we think we’ve got somewhere with God, and y’know, we’re doing ok.  Quite happy with how much of my life God takes up, I mooch along, feeling all right.  Then... bam!  You realise you’ve got it all out of proportion.  Look at the actual size of this sculpture:
Image from

It’s huge!  Much bigger than anything I imagined when I saw the original image.  My feeling is that much of the time, this is also what my faith journey is like.

Something that I really like about this piece of art is the cross at the end of the path.  To me, it has a somewhat higgledy-piggedy look about it.  The arms don’t line up, and looks very much like something that I’d produce if I tried to make a cross at home by myself.  I think it is that “home-made” look that I like – the imperfect, humble and relatable quality.  But is the cross the end, or the beginning?  Is the focus of the sculpture the time of Lent, culminating in the death of Christ, or the journey onwards from the cross, through the door – the path which we are all now travelling? 

Lord God, through life’s difficult path,
be with us on our journey
and lead us from darkness to the light of Christ.