Thursday, June 27, 2013


I stood behind him, my hand on his shoulder, praying. He was kneeling. The bishop was seated in front of us, both arms outstretched. Other clergy were gathered around, all part of Karsten's story.

Karsten himself was still, receiving blessing, in a moment that I have seen sometimes be perfunctory but which here was genuinely holy.

It was a privilege to participate in my dear friend Karsten Wedgewood's ordination as a priest in the Church of England last Saturday.

I remember him joining St Catherine's. His English was stilted, his faith almost nowhere to be found. Years of theology in a major German university had all but squeezed the life out of him (it can do that to you; that, or help you fly) and he simply needed time to know Jesus.

We talked about the Resurrection quite a bit, I seem to recall. And we let the love of the people and the honesty of our worship do its work.

I think I always trust in these things because I find them to be so powerful and so true in my own experience. If God is found most clearly anywhere it is in the lives of his people. This is why, when his people fail, it hurts so much. Yet God shines through. For all the let-downs (we all get those - we all give them too, sadly), I have benefitted repeatedly in my life from people who have believed in me when I have forgotten how to do so; those people show me Jesus with a power they have no idea about.

As for worship, it's no surprise I'm going to depend upon the melodies of faith and gain strength from singing repeated promises of love to God based on clear statements of his character which exist in every form of Christian hymnody. All I'd add is that I don't think you need a voice or even an ear for these things to work; just a heart, and eyes to see when truth genuinely sustains and changes people.

Karsten doesn't share my passion for music; and yet as we talk I am impressed how deeply he cares about worship. He's had knocks from some who might have been better examples of faith, and yet it's the love of others that sings louder through his life.

We talked about the Resurrection quite a bit back in the day, and it's the same power that was seen in Jesus when God raised him from the dead that is at work in Karsten now. Is open to all of us. We all have our limits. We all have set-backs and imperfections (of our own and of others foisted upon us) and yet when we see Jesus, there is something amazing that happens:

We too are raised.

Life throws hundreds of little deaths at us. Yet, if we dare trust Jesus, we are raised up to something more by the One who was raised from a tomb in a garden on the third day.

Last Saturday it was a privilege to stand with a man who knows the inside truth of life and faith and who has willingly chosen to serve people and God and to offer this Jesus Resurrection truth. A privilege.

If you don't know Karsten, he's on the far right of the photo. Pray for him, and the parish where he lives. He's come a long way, and his story is far from done.

Which, I'd say with a great degree of gratitude, is probably a fair thing to say for all of us.

Monday, June 24, 2013

before and after

It's the old romantic in me. Or I'm just getting older.

I enjoyed the original, Before Sunrise; I quite liked the follow up, Before Sunset. I have them on DVD, and now that a third movie has come along, Before Midnight, I decided to re-view them before catching the latest instalment at the cinema.  

What beautiful films.

And - how amazing; the story of Celine and Jesse through the three films captures what happens when we age. We are who we always were, but with life added on. It's not just haircuts and lines on our faces, it's grit in our souls too.

Clare, the newsagent in Pontypridd, once asked me a question. A gaggle of arguing old biddies were leaving her shop, and as she stared after them, Clare turned to me and said, "Marcus, when I get old, will I be like that?"

I replied: "I think that when you are old, you are what you always were - but you forget to hide it. If you were always kind and generous, you will be that person in your old age, and it will be obvious to everyone. And if you were always a secretly cantankerous so-and-so - guess what!"

Clare looked at me and laughed. "Oh dear," she said, "I'm not sure if that's good news or not!"

These films follow through two people as they move from early twenties to early thirties to early forties. I hope this isn't the last in the series. They aren't perfectly profound, or absolutely applicable to every life situation - but they are wonderfully human and recognisable and rise to hope and fall to despair and leave questions open and give room for both dreams and failures. They are beautiful.

I sometimes find myself praying - Lord, help me be a good person today. I mean by that - help me love. I think it can feel fairly easy to love God; it feels less easy to 'love my neighbour', the people around me. I guess there's a temptation all of us face - and it's huge in all of these films - so to dwell on our side of the conversation of life that we forget  someone else is speaking too, and that their words come from experience and understanding and a place of value. Love happens when, for a moment, we listen and hear something new. Something beyond us. Something wonderful.  

Watching these films I see magical moments when two people just get that right, and tragic moments when they fail desperately.

I guess Celine & Jesse are just slightly younger than me. They could be people I've met. I feel like I know them; they speak like they know me.

What beautiful films.

Saturday, June 01, 2013


Twelve months ago today Matt died.

Perhaps I'm beginning to get the hang of this grief thing now.

We talk a lot about 'loss' when someone dies. "I'm sorry for your loss" is the culturally acceptable phrase. And, indeed, when Matt first died, all I could feel was the vacuum, the hole, the absence of the gift that he was in my life.

Well I still miss him. Every day. I think about him, and the things he'd do, the way he'd greet me, the way he'd respond to something or make me think differently because he was there. He made each day better.

But it's not so much about loss any more.

Loss would've been not to have him in the first place. Loss would've been to sit tight when Charlie died and not to go and find him. Loss would've been ten years without his company, his friendship, his love. That would have been loss.

I thank God for every day I had with Matt. And for every memory I have of him. And for every smile that crosses my face as I think of him now.

Yes, there are days it still hurts, one year on. And yet I'm working past the initial shock and pain and beginning to understand that these right and proper and raw emotions can hide deeper things from us if we stay with them too long and don't work our way through. Because why would I think of Matt and be sad? What part of our time together does that represent? Why does the last day get to be so important? We had over three and a half thousand days together; why let just one completely rule my heart, my mind, my remembering, my feelings?

Or if one day must be so important, I should pick a different one. A Christmas Day, opening gifts together, eating too much together, walking in the snow together. A summer's day, watching him running in the forestry, seeing him seek out a brook in which to paddle. A holiday by the beach, where Matt loved to play, even if he never ever dared swim in the sea. A journey in the car, where he would lie content at my side, his head on my hand, just occasionally complaining as I would sing along with songs on the radio. Or any old day, when I would come back from doing whatever it is I do, and he would leap and bark and be delighted I was home.

I thank God because now in my heart all of these days are gaining in weight, and that final day is receding a little. It's not so much about loss.

It's taken a year. But (at last) it's becoming about love and about the joy of ten years. So I do still shed the occasional tear, but don't think these tears come from sorrow - they are far more complex than that. There's a lot of life that wells up inside as I think of Matt, and sometimes it can't help but trickle out.

With great gratitude.