‘We do not invite Christ to follow us‘ is a somewhat free translation of some words by Bonhoeffer. My response to which is, ‘No, but he does it anyway’.
Christ is behind me. He has my back. Which is just as well. Of course, I do often forget this and feel got at and become defensive, until I remember, Christ is behind me.
Christ is beside me. Not just following but accompanying. My best companion. ‘Who is that next to you?’ Christ of course.
Christ is above me and below me. Such ancient ideas (from St Patrick’s breastplate) might now mean something different in our hierarchical world in which social standing is held up as everyone’s aspiration. Only it’s not. Christ already has those positions covered. Above us and below us, it’s Christ.
Christ in hearts of all who love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger. Whatever we think folks are talking about, they are speaking Christ is we listen enough. They are loving us in Christ.
Christ is within me. At this moment my abdominal cavity is abominal as it tries to deal with an influx of unwanted bacteria. But Christ is there within me.
Most of all Christ is before me. Bonhoeffer was probably aiming at this with his opening remarks: ‘We do not invite Christ to follow us’. We follow Christ. There’s always following to do. Not sure what to do today? Then follow Christ, whether you look at his back or his face. Yesterday in the queue at the bank they had provided some helpful footprints on the floor to show you what direction to take. Christ does this everyday.
Following Christ is much more than a direction which is why, according to this ancient Irish Prayer, Christ is there in every direction.
In our life and our believing
The love of God
Reflection on St Patrick’s Breastplate
My great aunt Olive was one of the wise ones in my family. Before I give her chair away I’d best tell you her story.
Olive was married to Len, one of the Sewell brothers. Anna Sewell of ‘Anna Sewell and sons’ was her mother in law and my great grandmother. Anna had five daughters and four sons, of which Len was the eldest, so he ran the business on a day to day basis. He was helped by George who had served as a submariner in WW2. They all lived at the fish shop in West Green Road, Tottenham, which was where I grew up.
Olive ran the multi generational household that gathered at the shop and where all family occasions were celebrated. We relied on the shop for the major part of our diet when I was very young. My mum would call in everyday before tea time and Len would give her something that was left of the fish on the counter. ‘Fish makes you brainy’ the uncles would always say and we thrived on it. I still love to eat fish above everything else.
On Saturday nights the whole family would gather at the shop. Each person was allowed to choose what they wanted for tea from the fish left that had to be used up (Sunday and Monday the shop was closed). You could choose anything but you had to ‘deal with it’ yourself, bones and all. We all learnt to fillet at an early age.
There would be stories and laughter. Uncle George would say daft things and get told off by Aunt Olive. There would be card games of rummy and cribbage with Newmarket at Christmas played with buttons from the button box rather than money.
Olive was always generous, giving things away, freecycling just as we are doing now so I know she’d approve.
In the holidays we’d go to aunt Olive’s caravan near Southend sometimes. Or she would come on holiday with us and our cousins to places on the east coast like Sea Palling, bracing! She’d read us stories and we’d play tricks on her like putting a china egg in her egg cup at breakfast.
As we got older, aunt Olive was a source of treats. She took me to the hairdresser when I was about 10 and I got a bob hair cut. She bought me a magic set for my birthday, not a practical thing but something I had dearly wanted (I can’t remember why).
Eventually Len sold the shop and everyone dispersed. Len and Olive lived in retirement in a bungalow near the east coast and we would visit quite often. When Len died it was Betty, my mum’s sister, who took time to look after Olive.
At about that time I was moving into a flat in Palmers Green in North London. Olive gave me two items of furniture for the flat: a bedside cabinet and the rocking chair. I used to sit in the window at the flat and read or sew. It was the best thing I had apart from my sewing machine. She lent me her watch for my wedding day (something borrowed).
When Olive died hers was the first funeral I conducted, on my 33rd birthday.
I remembered driving along the M40 towards Oxford, returning to college, praying ‘May the God of Peace comfort, hold and sustain you now and forever’.
It’s been a great chair.
In our life and our believing
The love of God