I have just returned from a six-week period of sabbatical. That is a very good name for what the Presbyterian Church officially calls ‘Study Leave.’ Is it leave the study or leave on which you study? Better to call it Sabbatical… there is room in that word for renewal as well as attending…
I am working in a little project with a friend of mine, Bernard Thornton. A kind of devotional book that we hope to publish. It is intended to be a small resource to help people stop in their days and gain perspective – a ‘kingdom of God perspective’ as my part of the project has been to write reflections around some of the Jesus’ ‘kingdom of God’ stories and events.
Here’s a little excerpt from one of these reflections called ‘Wonder’ – please note, this is still in draft form and not to be reprinted/used without permission – which I am willing to offer – I invite you to simply be courteous!
“In the pre-school music class I help lead we conclude one song by singing it at speed. To the rhythm of my guitar the children loudly clap their hands and we all stop after striking the last note. The children have now become so skilled in the finish of the song that they always finish in unison.
As a group we have come to treasure the moment immediately afterwards. Utter silence.
If it is possible to describe it this way, the silence is thunderous.
We have encouraged the children to revel in the wonder of the loudness of the sound of nothing at all. Their eyes widen as they marvel at what we have created together.
There is, of course, a lot of silence in their everyday, but like most common things – water, grass, sun, clouds, air – sometimes we have to put some sort of frame around them in order to highlight their majesty. It is good to give children the opportunity to celebrate the miracle of the often-missed ordinary.
When we do this we are reminded of the utter magnificence of what we can at best describe as the scheme of things.
The scheme of things is that larger sphere that just is.
We might choose to belittle free-spirits,
fill young heads with facts and figures in order to have them useful in the important world of being busy,
manipulate the land to maximise production,
and believe that we can kill in order to be free,
but none of this is all that important in the scheme of things
– that place where a prodigal is welcomed home
with ring, robe, sandals, and party with fatted calf;
where birds of the air neither sow, nor reap, nor store and yet are fed;
and where seeds are sown arbitrarily simply because that’s what the sower likes to do.
But we have a tendency to meddle.
We involve ourselves too heavily and too readily in small things we believe should be controlled.
With us in the driving seat our world decreases,
as does our imagination,
as does our sense of wonder,
as does our capacity to ache for what is lost.”