Discovering the gift

No one is thinking of Christmas but with the birth of John the Baptist (24 June) a marker is put down that we are once again on the way to that celebration. John announces the coming of the Messiah, among other ways, in how he searches for his own voice.

Why did he spend all that time in the desert dressed in camel hair and eating locusts and wild honey? He was ‘a voice’ but he had to discover what kind of voice. The result was volcanic: ‘you brood of vipers. Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?’ Do we think that John just woke up one morning and started speaking like that?  That he was inspired from day one? No, there was a long preparation in which he searched for what he was called to do.

And so it is with us as we live day by day in a Zimbabwe, a country which seems to be going nowhere. What am I to do? What is the gift I have to offer to my country?  We are patient.  We are good at waiting. But are we also searching for our gift? And should we not ask for courage to offer our gift once we know it?

I suspect the name Jacqueline Mary du Pré will not be known to many. She was born in 1945 and died of multiple sclerosis in 1987.  When she was four she heard a cello being played on the radio and told her mother, ‘I want one of those’.  Her mother responded and she started to master the art of playing that large string instrument that looks like a massive violin. Within a short time it became clear she was highly gifted and went on to be regarded as one of the greatest cellists of all time. From the age of 16 till she was 28 she travelled the world giving concerts and delighting audiences. Then her illness struck and she entered a painful decline and lost all ability to play. She died fourteen years later, aged 42.

If you google her you won’t find much on those last 14 years. Yet they were an integral part of her story, just as John’s squalid death in Herod’s prison was an integral part of his. Often we do not know what to say about suffering. We like ecstasy but not agony! We want success but we do not really buy into what is often tagged on to success; diminishment, rejection and death.  We fear these consequences and so we do not try to discover our gift. The risk is too great.

Can we break through these awful fears we have? Or do we remain under the judgement of the poet?

We are the hollow men …

Our dried voices, when we whisper together

Are quiet and meaningless

As wind in dry grass … (T.S.Eliot)

 

28 June 2020       Sunday 13 A      2 Kings 4:8…16     Romans 6:3…11      Matt 10:37-42

 

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