Ok, so it’s been a while (a long while!) since I blogged. But I’ve been doing some thinking recently about life and vocation.
Yesterday was Maundy Thursday. As usual on that day of the church year, I drove into Aberdeen for the annual Chrism Eucharist and Renewal of Vows. My Holy Week would be so much easier if I didn’t go into Aberdeen on that day. I live an hour and a half away from there. So it means leaving my house at 9.30 to get there for 11, staying for the service, and then the lunch afterwards and then driving home, meaning I arrive home about 3.30ish. On a day which then has at least two services in the evening, in two different churches, which are at least 20 minutes drive from each other. It’s always a bit of a scramble. So why bother? After all, it’s not compulsory.
But I go. It’s one of the days which is a touchstone in my year, a pausing point. A reminder. Because, you see, I’m not a natural priest. You will have met ministers to whom the job seems to come as easily as breathing. Who communicate and preach and effortlessly navigate the murky waters of committees. Who are pastorally relevant; good with children and teenagers. I’m sure you’ve met them.
That’s not me. I come somewhat reluctantly to priesthood – I am a priest because I am called. For me, it is as simple as that. It’s not something I would naturally incline towards. When I first started exploring the whole ordination thing, I remember the look of puzzlement on people’s faces. And, if I’m honest, if my selection panel had said ‘no’ – if at any stage I had been turned down – I would probably have heaved a huge sigh of relief, rolled up my sleeves and go on with life. Don’t get me wrong – I don’t think I’m a complete disaster as a minister. I’m ok at it, but nothing spectacular. I’d probably get an B for effort and a C for achievement. I’m not a natural priest.
This year has been particularly difficult in my area. We’ve had two fires in the last 12 months, both to major tourist attractions. Just after Christmas the valley was flooded by a wave of water : approximately half the houses in my small community were flooded. 50% of the shops. The golf course and caravan park were destroyed. The paths network was washed away.
Often there have been no words to be said ; nothing that can be done, apart from just being. Listening. Sitting. Watching and looking. Hugging. Crying with those who cry, and laughing with those who laugh. There has been a lot of questioning, a lot of anger. A lot of frustration at my impotence, my inability to do anything practical to help. It has been like being on a treadmill, with no view of the future. I have at times been physically incapable of doing more – yet there is still more to be done. There is always more to be done. I have ministered and been ministered too. I have been heartened by the solidity of this community. I have wept as the effects of the flooding seem to spread wider.
Yet. Yet what have I done to proclaim the Gospel? Where have I breathed words of God? How can I navigate through the next few hours? Days? Weeks? Months? Where am I to focus my efforts, to get my energy, to look, to listen, to act?
This is why Maundy Thursday is so important. It is a chance for me to remember what God calls me to. To remember that God works despite my inadequacies. To remember that it is not I alone, but I and God. That it is not up to me what happens next, but up to God. That in all that do and say and think I act with the help of God. As we go through the service we are asked various questions… and the answer is always ‘with the help of God, I will’. It is not I, but God. No matter what. Without God, I cannot, I will not. With the help of God, I will.