A collection of brief essays, ranging over topics related to the Christian faith. This is a collection to dip into and enjoy.
Angela Tilby, Columnist in the Church Times, former Canon of Christ Church, Oxford writes: Brief, sharp, witty and profound – these reflections are in the best pastoral tradition of the Church of England – they make us chuckle, help us think and show us a glimpse of ‘heaven in ordinary’.
Mark Oakley, Canon Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, London, writes: It was George Herbert who noted that the good country parson is ‘a diligent observer and tracker of God’s ways’, setting up ‘as many encouragements to goodness’ as possible. There could not be a better description of Adrian Leak who, in this wise and accessible collection of reflections, holds a compass that guides us through both the Church’s year and the seasons of the heart. Celebrating the richness of the ordinary, he helps us appreciate that, at the end of the day, Christians are called to nurture the human capacity to look and to love.
And here is a taster to whet your appetite:
NEBUCHADNEZZAR’S MARMALADE POT
Colonel Henry Rawlinson was a celebrated traveller and amateur archaeologist in the nineteenth century. He returned from one of his expeditions in Mesopotamia with a rare treasure. He had dug it up, he said, in the ruins of King Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. It was a small sealed jar containing what had once been marmalade.
He presented it to the young Queen Victoria. Although her journal is silent on the subject, it would be pleasing to think that Nebuchadnezzar’s marmalade pot graced the breakfast table at Windsor. Perhaps – who knows?- the queen, as she gazed across the table at her beloved Albert, might have reflected with relief upon the happy contrast between the rise of the House of Saxe-Coburg and the fall of the House of Babylon with all its concomitant ghastliness.
Archaeologists do us a great service. They remind us that what endures in the story of mankind is the commonplace. Broken cooking vessels, discarded sandals, old laundry lists and marmalade pots recall us to a proper sense of proportion. They teach us to suspect any view of history which is out of scale with the breakfast table.
There is in Sunderland a church whose Saxon porch is as it was when Bede worshipped there as a boy. He was seven when he joined the monastery at Monkwearmouth – the same age as some of the children who today visit the Saxon site on school visits. Like them, he must have wondered at the interlaced serpents carved upon the entrance. Like them, he must have instinctively put out his hand to touch those mysterious figures of Saxon art – what boy wouldn’t. Like them, no doubt, he was told, too late, ‘Don’t touch!’
Before time erodes completely those ancient carvings, or conservationists prudently put them beyond reach, how many young hands must have felt those stones and, at one degree of separation, touched each other, across the centuries, joined in a shared involuntary gesture – and one of them was Bede’s.
History witnesses to our shared ordinariness. It is the ordinary that gathers us into the commonwealth of the human race: a commonwealth which transcends barriers of race and creed, time and place. It is the commonplace, the shared material of life, which Jesus consecrated in the bread and wine, and which he transfigured when in his risen glory he invited those tired fishermen, who had toiled all night, to join him for breakfast on the shore of Galilee.
‘Though we are many, we are one body, because we all share in one bread’.