Bashing on

Easter Bunny?
Photo by Martha Bach Devine

Lent is a time for self-examination. John Bell’s hymn ‘Will you come and follow me’ has always struck me as a harsh and challenging text, so I chose it as the focus for our 2023 Lent explorations.

It’s based on Jesus’s words in Matthew 25 verse 31 onwards about feeding the hungry, tending the sick, and so on. Bell’s text and the teachings scattered throughout the gospels demand that we examine what makes us ‘tick’ as people so that we can see how our own desires and prejudices and behaviours prevent us from being Divine agents in the world, and prevent the Divine light that is in every one of us from shining out to light the way for others. 


But the more we have explored the text, the more I find myself torn. It is so demanding that I am doomed to fail. And if I am doomed to fail, then what’s the point of even trying? It raises the question: ‘why am I a Christian’?

The answer is simple. I am a Christian because I was born in Carlisle in 1950 with Scottish and northern English ancestors that were saturated in Methodism. Had I been born in Damascus or Khartoum or Delhi or Beijing I would almost certainly not be a Christian. I am a Christian, therefore, through accident of birth. Simple as that.

What has kept me a Christian? The answer without doubt is beauty: music, ritual, mystery, architecture, ideas, longing, being transported to another place. In short, liturgy and ritual done in a relaxed and seemly manner with all of us giving of our best in reading, in singing, in serving, in speaking. It is a performance — don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Yes, gospel teaching is the best way to live life in all its fullness, but without the numinousness it’s all rather puritan and sterile.

Indeed, I wonder if the ritual, the beauty, the mystery are more important for me than the Christian message. If the focus of the liturgy were the Easter Bunny rather than Jesus Christ, would I still be a Christian, or would I be a devotee of a small mammal of the family Leporidae with a bobtail and floppy ears?

I’ve come out of these Wednesday evenings feeling inadequate about my inability to live the The Summons. And so I become more determined to enjoy the liturgy and abundant life and do the best I can secure in the knowledge that like everyone else I shall fail. I bash on. 

The Latin for ‘I bash on’ is perfero — which coincidentally was the motto of Cumberland County Council emblazoned on the exercise books of my education in the 1950s and 60s.  And that takes me back to where I started. You can take the boy out of Cumberland but never Cumberland out of the boy.

God bless this mess.

10 thoughts on “Bashing on

  1. Good to read your scribing as usual. I was asked this by years 5 & 6 as to why I was a Christian, same answer as you initially, because I was born in the UK, Leeds :), then I said through choice or mire accurately responding to God’s constant and pursuing love for me in Jesus. See the poem Hound of Heaven by Francis Thompson.
    1950 is a good vintage!

  2. Could have been written by Betjeman, though he’d have chosen verse.

    Long time, no speak Stanley. Hope all’s as well as it can be.


  3. I have found the whole journey fascinating. In fact I don’t want this voyage of exploration to end. There is much to discover. I can only thank you for opening my eyes a touch wider. As you say, we will continue ‘bashing on!’ for what time is left to us.

  4. What you write is very much where I am at the moment. Last Sunday evening I was overwhelmed by a beautiful Evensong service which just lifted me above whatever else might be going on in my life; all it needed was a waft of incense to make it perfect!

  5. But we still need a focus. The sun? been done. The moon? probably been done. Satan? been done. I know – since we are biologically merely gonads on a support system, how about The Great Gonad?

    Or Richard Dawkins – same thing I suppose.

  6. I’m absorbed by the sounds and beauty too. And if I don’t ring before a service I attend, I feel rather awkward!

      • Indeed … great ring of bells, 5-6 manual organ, large choir, insense, lots of candles, the greatest hymns and music … all in a beautiful ancient building with wonderful acoustics and light pouring in through colourful stained glass … 😁

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