The Last Week

A sunrise or a sunset, who can tell?

It has been a month of endings; of acknowledging the severing of relationships, with no particular expectations of what might happen next. Last Sunday I preached in my local parish church. The people of St. Michaels were kind and generous in what they said over morning tea as they farewelled me as bishop and welcomed me into their congregation.

Right in the middle of the Fourth Gospel, chapter 11 of 21, the author has placed the story of Lazarus. Right in the middle of the story of Lazarus the author has placed the story of Jesus' conversation with Lazarus' sister Martha, as she tearfully upbraids him for not doing more to save her brother. Martha speaks of Jesus as her hope, but she locates that hope in some other place, far removed from the  monumental rock right beside her and the putresescence of her brother's decaying body sealed behind it. Jesus is a little more material. He asks for the stone to be moved. Hope is here and now. 

The other three gospels record that on the cross Jesus cries with a loud voice. They all use the same, rare verb to describe that moment when Jesus surrenders himself to death. They all say"εκραυγασεν", "he cried out". John doesn't record this. Instead, using the same rare verb, he speaks of Jesus crying out at the tomb of Lazarus. This seemingly insignificant detail is crucially important, for here, John's Gospel tells us, is the moment when Jesus gives up his life that Lazarus might live. Jesus is well aware that to perform such a dramatic miracle within ready hearing of the gates of Jerusalem is to guarantee his own death. It is at this point that the exchange is made. As Jesus told Martha, Death and Resurrection is not about what happened to some bloke millennia ago, and its not about us sprouting wings and taking up harps at the end of time, it is about our real lives and our own present daily surrenderings.

Standing far back from myself I am interested in my own lack of emotion, one way or another as the end of my lifetime's work looms near. I find myself neither apprehensive nor excited, although a couple of nights back I had a large and numinous dream. I dreamed of death and, like Martha, of concealing a body. One secondary detail in the complex plot was walking into my garage and seeing in the corner, behind all manner of dispensible clutter, an old but perfectly useable, battleship grey Ducati ST. I realised that it had come to me years before in another dream, that it had a long history, but that even though it was completely mine, I had never ridden it

In my last session as bishop with my spiritual director, we talked of the dream and of that particular detail. We talked of Lazarus and of the resurrection which lies ahead, serenely, in my very real life.

Comments

Merv said…
Fare thee well, good and faithful Bishop.
Last Sunday our choir presented Henry Walford Davies'chant to Psalm 130 (De Profundis). We fell in love with it & will offer it again tonight at a resthome service.
"I look for the Lord, my soul doth wait for Him;
In His word is my trust.
My soul fleeth unto the Lord
Before the morning watch;
I say, before the morning watch."
Alden Smith said…
Retirement; (Look and hear how I speak this word with the intonation of an experienced sage, eyes cast heavenward, hand on chin as I muse through my musing beard, clasping my blunt pencil tightly in my other hand) - retirement is a time of change and sometimes stress (although not as much stress as most workplaces).

Two little books that I re - read around the time of retirement were:

- Introduction to Type and Change - Nancy J. Barger / Linda K. Kirby

- In The Grip: Understanding Type, Stress and the Inferior Function

Both these little books have been a great help to me in reminding me of aspects of my self both before and during the transition to retirement.

I concur with your sentiments that death and resurrection are built into the everyday aspects of our lives - these are visceral as well as intellectual, theological ideas.

The dream you describe on your current blog post is interesting:

"Standing far back from myself I am interested in my own lack of emotion, one way or another as the end of my lifetime's work looms near. I find myself neither apprehensive nor excited, although a couple of nights back I had a large and numinous dream. I dreamed of death and, like Martha, of concealing a body. One secondary detail in the complex plot was walking into my garage and seeing in the corner, behind all manner of dispensible clutter, an old but perfectly useable, battleship grey Ducati ST. I realised that it had come to me years before in another dream, that it had a long history, but that even though it was completely mine, I had never ridden it."

Of course both of us are closer to death at 65 than we are to our birth days, so that part of the journey is indeed closer. My inclination and feeling is that dreams about death are always symbolic of something else rather than some sort of literal prediction / prophecy of ones imminent demise. (If I had a numinous dream of a large clock dramatically stopping, I would be looking at my last will and testament sooner rather than later).

In one sense of "my lifetime's work" your official church based lifetime's work as a priest looms near, but surely not your participatory role as a retired priest and incognito influence on the lives of others.

In terms of that other journey, the voyage of individuation, "my lifetime's work" - the reality is that this continues until death and I suspect the "old but perfectly usable, battleship grey Ducati ST" is possibility an invitation and reminder to become aware of those un-lived aspects of your 'self' (interests, talents, abilities, pathways both challenging and easy) that necessity put aside for another day - tackling these is always a good idea.

Of course if you want to blat around and shoot the breeze on a battleship grey Ducati ST while you think about all of this I am quite taken with the look of a Desert Storm coloured Royal Enfield with cool looking coiled bouncy springs under the seat.
Kelvin Wright said…
It would be good to talk of that dream sometime, old friend. John, my director, was enormously helpful. Yes, all the elements are some aspect of myself including the concealed body waiting to be disposed of and the unused motorcycle. At this time of transition it's hardly surprising that death and birth will feature in my dreams and that they will often take place at dusk or dawn.

I have become interested in lucid dreams of late and although this one wasn't a lucid dream I'm interested to observe that in this dream I knew the Ducati had featured in a previous dream - so there was some level of consciousness that I was dreaming.

We're buying a Caravan. Well be in the North Island sometime and I would like to make the trip to Oihi Bay sometime soon. We'll be in touch.
Barbara Harris said…
Next
Next friendly glance, next smile, next kiss, next cafe coffee.
Next sunny day, next walk to the beach, next photo of calm water.
Next car, next phone, next house on wheels, next pilgrimage adventure.
Next unexpected email, phone call, handshake, interview, next new career.

Next joy, next grace, next energy, next happiness, next wonderful, next marvellous.

Next Tuesday amazing first minute, hour, morning, afternoon, day of the future.

Glory in the flower. There's treasure everywhere.