The Psalm for today is Psalm 130 De Profundis – it is recorded on the main page.
Increasingly I find myself reflecting on the past. Perhaps this is a symptom of advancing age, perhaps it is just that having arrived in such a beautiful place as Winchelsea there seems to be time to reflect or perhaps it is just self indulgence. Whatever the reason as I sit here looking out at the church in the sunshine, currently locked and echoing to the prayers I have just offered, I am transported to a classroom at my prep school.
There in an Elizabethan revival house with draughty mullioned windows and sloping desks still designed to house little glass inkwells, I’m listening to Mr Mercer. Mr Mercer was tall and lanky with the obligatory tweed jacket and as I think about it with a slightly stubby and rather unconvincing moustache. In front of him stood one of those wonderfully old-fashioned tape recorders with huge spools that projected over the desk. Amongst other things Mr Mercer taught what was still called “Scripture”. And on that day he played for us episode 7 from “The Man Born to be King” by Dorothy L Sayers, the influential and popular retelling of the life of Jesus. Episode 7 is the raising of Lazarus. I have always felt that at least in part it is one of the reasons I find myself a priest.
Around the same time I remember a particularly unsettling nightmare. I was being chased down a spiral staircase by a skeleton. I’m still wary of spiral staircases although I must confess I’ve never actually encountered a skeleton when descending. We don’t know how Ezekiel experienced his vision but may be it was in a similar way to my dream. Perhaps if I had not woken up before the skeleton and I reached the bottom of the stairwell I would have had a more positive vision just as Ezekiel does. I cannot remember when this particular reading of the Valley of the Dry Bones became one of my favourites but it may have been around the same time. It offers comfort to those full of anxiety. The very breath of God brings life.
Just as Ezekiel was uplifted and transported by the spirit of the Lord and found himself in the valley of bones, I find myself in the classroom, still with blackboard, chalk and one of those felt-backed erasers, which so often made the most terrible squeaking noise when employed to clean the board. Behind me I can glance the sports field and the Dorset countryside. Lazarus emerges from the tomb, “Unbind him and let him go”. That was unsettling too but then so often that which makes us grow is unsettling.
I leave you with Jesus’s words at the beginning of the reading without comment,
“This illness does not lead to death; rather it is for God’s glory, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it”.