8 June 2020

A Moment to Reflect -36

A previous birthday cake just completed.

Today one of our family members will celebrate a birthday- but it will have to be done “remotely.” Several times during this lockdown we’ve had to have virtual family get-togethers online to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ to young and old. It’s no substitute for a real coming together in person. And while you can all watch the birthday candles being blown out you can’t eat your share of the birthday cake ‘virtually.’ Nevertheless it is very important to us that birthdays are celebrated. Henri Nouwen, with typical insight tells us why this is so.

“Birthdays need to be celebrated. I think it is more important to celebrate a birthday than a successful exam, a promotion, or a victory. Because you celebrate a birthday means to say to someone: ‘Thank you for being you.’ Celebrating a birthday is exalting life and being glad for it. On a birthday we do not say: ‘Thanks for what you did, or said, or accomplished.’ No, we say: ‘Thank you for being born and being among us.’

On birthdays we celebrate the present. We do not complain about what happened or speculate about what will happen, but we will lift someone up and let everyone say: ‘We love you.'” Henri Nouwen, Here and Now.

So today for your reflection. Take a look in a mirror, celebrate the present, remind yourself that your life does matter to God and if someone you know is celebrating a birthday tell them you love them.

6 June 2020

A Moment to Reflect -35

If you know your Bible well enough (unlike the current US President, dare I say) you will know that you can often find two different verses in the Bible that seem to be saying the exact opposite of each other. Sometimes even in the same paragraph!

For example, Galatians 6:2 says “Carry each other’s burdens

But then Galatians 6:5 has “each one should carry their own load”

Which is it?

Of course, context is everything—though often completely disregarded by those who want to use the Bible to reinforce a preconceived opinion. 

So, we come to today’s quotations, the first a well-known line from the 16th Century English poet, John Donne: “No man is an island”

The second is from the 19th Century American philosopher, William James: “We are like islands in the sea.”

Which is it?

Well, of course, we need the context. In fact, we really ought to complete the quotations.

No man is an island,
entire of itself;
every man is a piece of the continent,
a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
as well as if a promontory were.
as well as if a manor of thy friend’s
or of thine own were.
Any man’s death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind;
and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

-John Donne

“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” 
― William James

So, in reality, the two writers were actually saying pretty much the same thing—we are deeply connected to each other. Or as St Paul put it, “If one part suffers, every part suffers with it.” Romans 12:26

We can feel these deeper connections especially at the moment when on the surface we are being kept apart by ‘social distancing.’

There are always those who will try to amplify and exploit differences and create chasms of division, whether of race or colour or gender or creed or age …for their own ends.

Do not believe them…