Sunday, 8 July 2012

Frustration - and bread down the chimney

I went to York Minister this morning, a moving service in which the Archbishop preached on frustration, linking this to  the frustrations of the prophet Ezekiel, Paul's thorn in the flesh and Jesus being frustrated at the unbelief in his home town. Frustration, said the Archbishop, affects individuals, society and the Church. It was a clear allusion to the difficulties which have dogged the Church during his tenure and an allusion to the current frustrations over the women bishops legislation.
In a nutshell, Rowan Williams said that we must remember that frustration is actually a product of our human ability to think and feel strongly about issues. The human mind, he said, cannot be forced and so our frustration arises from our freedom as human beings and so should be acknowledged as having arising from a positive and not seen as something wholly negative. The human mind cannot be forced - but it can be broken by love. He reminded us that Jesus could not do work among those of his home town because of their lack of faith and belief, sometimes, he said, we too need to let go of our resistance and allow God to do his work. Towards the end of the sermon, Williams told an anecdote, which he said he had been struggling to "fit in" to the sermon. It was the story of an impoverished Welsh farmer's wife who, when asked how she coped with the frustration of struggling to make ends meet, said that, "bread comes down the chimney."
I wondered if William's "offering" of the metaphor of bread down the chimney, a strange manna from heaven, was a final consolation for a Church for which he has no solution. Williams time and time again has offered to the Church the message that a "solution", if there is one, lies in love, trust in God and consideration for each other. It is in a way a helpless message, but I do not think it is an unholy one, in some ways very much the opposite and in some ways the only way forward in the face of seemingly irreconcilable divisions. For many, Williams has been too gentle and too vacillating; he has disappointed liberals and conservatives at different times and in different ways. But perhaps his message that somehow it will be alright, just wait, see, trust and don't lose sight of the bigger picture of love, is the wisest message going.

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