My post-settled-pastor life has involved taking a lot of flights to Riga.
The service and punctuality of Air Baltic is generally impeccable but last Friday the flight to Riga was delayed by three hours. I was sorry to miss some hours of sunshine in Latvia but I always have plenty of reading matter with me so I could use the time profitably.
Three reviews I read got me thinking.
The first was the review of the latest novel by the quirky but extremely gifted Christian author Francis Spufford, who is probably best known for his novel Golden Hill.
The reviewer commented that Spufford is “one of the best writers we have at turning a book into a magical doorway to somewhere else.”
That is what I like about reading. I can be transported to a different place or introduced to fresh ideas and insights. A book can be an amazing tele-port to places that give me vistas of worlds and concepts that I had never thought of visiting.
I felt like that when reading a recent book about Christmas by Emily Hunter McGowen. She rather brilliantly opened a magical doorway from the familiar story of Moses encountering God at a bush in the desert that was burning but never consumed. McGowen reminded me that preachers in the early church connected this story to the incarnation of Jesus. The Son of God became a real man without his ceasing to be God just as the bush burned without being consumed. Brilliant.
The second review was of an interview with Paul McCartney on the origins of Beatles lyrics. Reflecting on the song Eleanor Rigby, the interviewer comments, “It was rewarding just to pause and consider the lyrics to ‘Eleanor Rigby’, a compressed short story with the emotional force of poetry.”
It reminded me of how it is possible to say a great deal with a few words, and to do so in a memorable way.
One part of the song’s compressed short story are the lines:
‘Father McKenzie, Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear. No one comes near’
Preachers are called to tell the old old story that is forever new, but sometimes it can seem as if no one is listening. (And it might not be worth listening anyway!)
The final review I read was of a concert by the band New Order. The band was formed from the remaining members of the Manchester band Joy Division after their singer Ian Curtis took his life in 1980. For the encore New Order did a mini set of Joy Division songs. The reviewer reflects on the middle-aged musicians’ choice:
“These songs and several others begged the question: is playing the oldies an act of nostalgia when the oldies still sound like the future?”
When preachers turn their hearers’ attention to “a tale as old as time,” it is their task to help them feel like it sounds like the future.
When God speaks it always has the quality of the eternal Now!