No God or Know God?

No God, No Peace.
Know God, Know Peace.

That’s what the sign outside the Church in the outskirts of Harrogate said. You know how these things are, you turn it over and over in your mind trying to decide whether it is rather trite, sacrificing truth to fit a formula or rather clever with considerable truth about it. In this instance, I’ll leave final arbitration on that to each of you, as you ponder it. I want to move on to what was on the box later the same evening.

In the first programme that I caught a brief ‘slice’ of, Sue Perkins was in India, travelling to the source of the Ganges in search of spiritual enlightenment and yes, Peace. In the segment that I saw, s he talked with a number of people, but always there was a slightly flippant commentary, which was more Sue Perkins the comedienne, than Sue Perkins the seeker after the Spirit. She was bewailing the ‘fact’ that she had to travel 5000 miles to the source of the Ganges, to find peace in the orbit of the God – Mother Ganga. Apparently such peace is not available to those of us who live in the Western World, because of the noise, the bustle and the connectedness. I did pause to wonder if Sue had ever been to Caithness, Sutherland or Ross-shire, but then of course it also begs the question “What is Peace?.

In a rare glimpse of the Sue that lies behind the comedic front, it emerged that she had lost her father about six months previously and had kept herself very busy, quite explicitly to avoid having to deal with her grief at the loss and the empty space that his death had left. Sadly death has become very much a taboo subject for many in Western Society and there are consequently many people who feel uncomfortable talking about it and dealing positively with the loss of someone close and who do exactly what Sue did, hide from it in business. Her comment when communing with Mother Ganga “I’m not a religious person, but I do have a sort of spiritual sense here.” is probably representative of the thinking of many on this subject. I wonder how we as the Christian communities in this part of the world might help people to come to a better understanding of what religious and spiritual practice might do to help them. Recently, I read an obituary of Monsignor Augustine Hoey who, as an Anglican Priest in deprived parts of England, opened the doors of his dimly lit church to local people, where he had placed an open coffin with a mirror in the bottom of it. He invited them to look into the coffin to see who was inside. They were astonished to see themselves and he said: “One day this will be you.”, then after a dramatic pause: “Are you ready?” and after another pause: “Come to confession.” It apparently had a positive effect, though I am not sure that emulating the good Monsignor would work in all of our communities.

The second programme that I caught a snatch of was ‘Bad Habits, Holy Orders’ in which five 19-25 year old, hard living, hard drinking, hard spending, hard partying girls, had somehow agreed to spend a month in a convent in Norfolk, with just £25 for pocket money, no booze and chapel several time a day. The snatch that I saw was the first of four weekly instalments on Channel 5 on Thursdays at 10pm. The newspaper reviewer that I read on Friday was horrified: “How did a show about naughty nuns end up so dull? It’s almost inconceivable how a premise such as ‘Bad Habits, Holy Orders’ could result in TV duller than a four hour sermon, but somehow Channel 5 managed and achieved the seemingly impossible, which is itself a minor miracle.

For me that’s the point. The miracle is that the elderly members of the Daughters of Divine Mercy, even though they espouse pretty much the opposite values of a lingerie model, an exotic dancer, a nightclub hostess, a clubbing addict and a secretary, simply by the lives that they lead are serving as agents of God’s Grace to five very lost souls. By the time I switched off, one of the girls had said to her diarycam: “I’m not sure if I’ve got the wrong reaction, but I feel like I could make myself at home in this bedroom. Its very calming and very relaxing.” and two had used some of their ‘pocket money’ to buy small gifts for nuns, from a local charity shop. And in all of this none of them had to travel 5000 miles to the source of the Ganges as part of their spiritual journey of transformation, how cool is that?

Finally back to peace and knowledge: May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep you hearts and minds in the knowledge and love of God and of His Son Jesus Christ.

Blessings to you all
James

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