May Day – unbridled merriment

May is the month when the ancient pagans used to get up to
‘all sorts’! The Romans held their
festival to honour the mother-goddess Maia, goddess of nature and growth. (May is named after her.) The early Celts celebrated the feast of
Beltane, in honour of the sun god, Beli.

For centuries in ‘Olde England’ the people went mad in
May. After the hardship of winter, and
hunger of early Spring, May was a time of indulgence and unbridled merriment.
One Philip Stubbes, writing in 1583, was scandalised: “for what kissing and bussing, what smooching
and slabbering one of another, is not practised?”

Henry VIII went ‘maying’ on many occasions. Then folk would
stay out all night in the dark rain-warm thickets, and return in the morning
for dancing on the green around the May pole, archery, vaulting, wrestling, and
that evening, bonfires.

The Protestant reformers took a strong stand against May Day
- and in 1644 May Day was abolished altogether.
Many May poles came down - only to go up again at the Restoration, when
the first May Day of King Charles’s reign was “the happiest Mayday that hath
been many a year in England”, according to Pepys.

May Day to most people today brings vague folk memories of a
young Queen of the May decorated with garlands and streamers and flowers, a May
Pole to weave, Morris dancing, and the
intricacies of well dressing at Tissington in Derbyshire.

May Day is a medley of natural themes such as sunrise, the
advent of summer, growth in nature, and - since 1833 - Robert Owen’s vision of
a millennium in the future, beginning on May Day, when there would be no more
poverty, injustice or cruelty, but harmony and friendship. This is why, in modern times, May Day has
become Labour Day, which honours the dignity of workers. And until recently, in communist countries
May Day processions were in honour of the achievement of Marxism.

There has never been a Christian content to May Day, but
nevertheless there is the well-known 6am service on the top of Magdalen Tower
at Oxford where a choir sings in the dawn of May Day.

An old May carol includes the lines:

The life of man is but
a span,

it flourishes like a flower

We are here today, and
gone tomorrow

- we are dead within an hour.

There is something of a sadness about it, both in words and
tune, as there is about all purely sensuous joy. For May Day is not Easter, and the joys it
represents have always been earth-bound and fleeting.


May: More notes on Ascension Day

Surely the most tender, moving ‘farewell’ in history took
place on Ascension Day. Luke records
the story with great poignancy: “When
Jesus had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, he lifted up his hands - and
blessed them.”

As Christmas began the story of Jesus’ life on earth, so
Ascension Day completes it, with his return to his Father in heaven. Jesus’ last act on earth was to bless his
disciples. He and they had a bond as
close as could be: they had just lived
through three tumultuous years of public ministry and miracles – persecution
and death – and resurrection! Just as we
part from our nearest and dearest by still looking at them with love and
memories in our eyes, so exactly did Jesus:
“While He was blessing them, He left them and was taken up into
heaven.” (Luke 24:50-1) He was not forsaking them, but merely going
on ahead to a kingdom which would also be theirs one day: “I am ascending to my Father and to your
Father, to my God and your God...” (John
20:17)

The disciples were surely the most favoured folk in
history. Imagine being one of the last
few people on earth to be face to face with Jesus, and have Him look on you
with love. No wonder then that Luke goes
on: “they worshipped Him - and returned
to Jerusalem with great joy. And they
stayed continually at the temple, praising God.” (Luke 24:52,53)

No wonder they praised God!
They knew they would see Jesus again one day! “I am going to prepare a place for you... I
will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
(John 14:2,3) In the meantime, Jesus had
work for them to do: to take the Gospel to every nation on earth.

The silent sermon

A member of a certain church, who had previously
attended services regularly, stopped going.
After a few weeks, the minister decided to visit him. He found the man
at home all alone, sitting by a blazing fire. Guessing the reason for his
minister's visit, the man welcomed him awkwardly, and led him to a comfortable
chair near the fireplace and waited.

The minister made himself at home, but said nothing.
In the grave silence, he contemplated the dance of the flames around the
burning logs. After some minutes, he took the fire tongs, carefully picked up a
brightly burning ember and placed it to one side of the hearth all alone. Then
he sat back in his chair, still silent.

The host watched all this in quiet contemplation. As
the one lone ember's flame flickered and diminished, there was a momentary glow
and then its fire was no more. 
Soon it was cold and dead.

Not a word had been spoken since the initial greeting.
But now the minister chose this time to leave. He slowly stood up, picked up
the cold, dead bit of coal and placed it back in the middle of the fire.
Immediately it began to glow once more, with the light and warmth of the
burning coals around it. With that, the
minister smiled at his host, and quietly let himself out.

KEEPING CALM AND CARRYING ON

On May 10th 1941 I was safely asleep in bed in my grandparents’ home in rural Wales. My
parents, on the other hand, were making their beds in the air raid shelter in
the back garden of our home in north London. Right on cue as darkness fell, the
sirens wailed. It would be another night of the ‘blitz’, with its incessant
noise of anti-aircraft guns, the drone of the German bombers and the terrifying
explosion of their bombs.

As dawn
came and the enemy raiders departed, my parents got some breakfast and dad went
off to work. That had been the routine for more than a year. What they didn’t
know was that May 10th was to be the last night of the blitz. The
morale of the civilian population, the courage of the RAF night fighter pilots,
firemen and air raid wardens had finally persuaded Hitler that he would not win
the war that way.

The blitz
became part of British folk-lore. Our towns and cities were pock-marked with
bomb sites. The casualties had been appalling – that last night of the blitz 75
years ago 1,300 people died. But ordinary men and women simply ‘kept calm and
carried on’, as the famous slogan said. While we marvel at their fortitude, it
may also help to put our present troubles into perspective.

Children’s exam papers

The following real
life answers to various exams explain why teachers need long holidays…

What is a
nitrate?

Cheaper than a day rate.

What was Sir Walter
Raleigh famous for?

He is a noted figure in history because he invented
cigarettes and started a craze for bicycles.

What did Mahatma Gandhi
and Genghis Khan have in common?

Unusual names.

Name one of the early
Romans’ greatest achievements.

Learning to speak Latin.

Name six animals which
live specifically in the Artic.

Two polar bears. Four seals.

Assess Fashion House
plc’s choice to locate its factory near Birmingham. Is Birmingham the right location for this
type of business?

No. People from Birmingham aren’t very fashionable.

How does Romeo’s
character develop throughout the play?

It doesn’t, it’s just self, self, self, all the way through.

Name the wife of
Orpheus, whom he attempted to save from the underworld.

Mrs Orpheus.

Where was the American
Declaration of Independence signed?

At the bottom.

What happens during
puberty to a boy?

He says goodbye to his childhood and enters adultery.

State three drawbacks
of hedgerow removal.

All the cows will escape.
The cars drive into the fields.
There is nowhere to hide.

What is the meaning of
the word varicose?

Close by.

What is a fibula?

A little lie.

Why would living close
to a mobile phone mast cause ill health?

You might walk into it.

What is a
vibration?

There are good vibrations and bad vibrations. Good vibrations were discovered in the 1960s.

Where was Hadrian’s
Wall built?

Around Hadrian’s garden.

The race of people
known as Malays come from which country?

Malaria.

**

Walking out

"I hope you didn't take it personally, Reverend," said an embarrassed
woman after a church service, "when
my husband walked out during your sermon."

"I did find it rather disconcerting,"
the preacher admitted.

"It's
not a reflection on you, sir," insisted the church-goer. "Ralph has been walking in his sleep ever
since he was a child."

**

Revival families

After the
local mission outreach had concluded, the three ministers were discussing the
results with one another. The Methodist minister said, "The
mission worked out great for us! We gained four new families."

The Baptist preacher said, "We did better than that! We gained six new families."

The Anglican priest said, "Well, we did even better than that! We got rid of our 10
biggest trouble makers!"

Hearing

A man went into a
church and asked the vicar to pray for his hearing. Touched by his faith, the vicar agreed. “Kneel here,” he began in a loud voice. The man knelt, and the vicar placed a hand on
each ear and bellowed a prayer. "I hope that will help," he finally shouted.

"Well, I won't
know for a while," the man replied. "It isn't until next month".

‘……We pray for those known to
us in special need.’

As well as praying for those known to us personally, it
is the custom in church to pray for those known to the wider community as being
in special need. So every Sunday and
every Wednesday we pray for them.

We have a list of names and anyone is welcome to have a
name added to that list but sometimes we don’t know anything else about the
person we have been asked to pray for or how long they need to be kept in
special prayer. We would therefore like
to ask people who want to add a name to the list to have a word with Ian Gold
or Geoff Bamford and then keep in touch with us so that we can know how things are
going.

(It would also be helpful if those who have asked for
names to be added to the current list can also let us know about them.)

Referendum : what does the Church say?

This was a question heard in
church recently. Unsurprisingly the
Church of England doesn’t have a set opinion on this though clearly individuals
will have. In a recent Church times poll
60% thought the Bishops should lead a campaign to remain in the EU.

It may be of interest to know
that there are rival campaigns which have been established to seek to persuade
Christians on how to vote.

They are:

‘Christians for Britain’ set up by Canon Giles Fraser who is Priest-in-Charge
of St Mary’s Newington and was formerly, before his resignation, Chancellor of
St Paul’s Cathedral.

They are campaigning for a Leave vote.

A group urging a Remain vote with the name ‘Christians for the EU’ has been
established by the Very Revd Michael Sadgrove who recently retired as Dean of
Durham.

Another group is ‘Europe for Peace’ which is a
faith-based campaign which seeks to highlight the positive benefits of the
longest period of peace in Europe and work for an outward-looking EU.

Christian Aid

Christian Aid week is next
month – 15th to 21st May.

We did well in the parish
last year but there were several areas which we were not able to cover. One or two people remarked after the event
that they wished they had offered to help collect.

So if you feel this is
something you could do, please have a word with Ian Gold (685956) now.

- disciple, apostle, writer of the second
gospel

Mark, whose home in Jerusalem became a place of rest for
Jesus and His 12 apostles, is considered the traditional author of the second
gospel. He is also usually identified as
the young man, described in Mark 14:51, who followed Christ after his arrest
and then escaped capture by leaving his clothes behind.

Papias, in 130, said that in later years Mark became Peter’s
interpreter. If so, then this close
friendship would have been how Mark gathered so much information about Jesus’
life. Peter referred to him affectionately as his ‘son’.

Mark was also a companion to Paul on his journeys. When Paul was held captive at Rome, Mark was
with him, helping him. Mark’s Gospel,
most likely written in Italy, perhaps in Rome, is the earliest account we have
of the life of Jesus. Mark died about 74
AD.

Early in the 9th century Mark’s body was brought to Venice,
whose patron he became, and there it has remained to this day. The symbol of Mark as an evangelist, the
lion, is much in evidence at Venice.

Paul Hardingham
considers foolishness and wisdom…

Called to be Fools!

April Fool’s Day is the traditional way to begin this month!
In medieval times the fool (or jester) was not just there for amusement. He had
an influential role in the court, because he could speak the truth in ways
others couldn’t. As Christians we are also called to be fools; Paul described
himself as a ‘fool for Christ’ (1
Corinthians 4:10). In what ways is this an appropriate description of a
Christian? In his letter Paul expands on this theme.

= a foolish
message:
‘For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing,
but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ (1 Cor 1:18). The
heart of the Gospel does not focus on clever ideas, but on the Cross of Jesus
Christ. This message of foolishness and weakness is both God’s wisdom and power
for our lives!

= a foolish
community:
‘But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God
chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.’ (1:27). The church
in Corinth consisted of slaves, rather than the rich and successful. God calls
the weak and vulnerable to follow Him, in order to shame those who think they
don’t need God.

= a foolish
ministry:

‘My message and my preaching were not with
wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so
that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.’
(2:4,5). Paul’s ministry didn’t rest on human wisdom, but on the power of the
Holy Spirit. For us, this power is often displayed when we are at our weakest!

‘A fool thinks himself
to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool.’ (William
Shakespeare).

Editor:
David Winter is feeling a bit dizzy with the effects of change….

THE WAY I SEE IT : Stop the world, I want to get off

At my age
you start marveling at the pace of change. It only seems yesterday that we
started getting money from holes in the wall. Then it was dotcom, and emails,
mobile phones and ‘going online’. Now it’s smart-phones, internet shopping and
digital books. As one habitual feature of my adult life disappears after
another, I start to wonder what will eventually be left.

So I try to
imagine a world without things: without the daily newspaper or printed
magazines; without clothes shops or banks; without cricket (baseball has taken
over the ‘franchise’) or football (NFL has won the hearts of the young
generation). Evensong is distant history, and so is radio. Even TV is only used
by the very old, everyone else ‘streams’ their programmes online from all over
the world. No one reads paper books, though they are stored somewhere in
academic libraries. Oh, and what were coins, banknotes and cheques?.

If you
think any of those things can’t possibly happen, just reflect (if you’re old
enough) on the world of fifty years ago: black and white television,
gramophones, tape recorders, Woolworths, bookshops on every high street, a
nightly ‘epilogue’ on the BBC, and five million readers a day for the Sun.
It wasn’t better (actually, a lot was worse), but it was massively different.

Only God is
changeless, the same ‘yesterday, today and for ever’. Change is an inescapable
element of human life. It’s just that it’s got so fast! Could someone please
slow it down a bit?

 

1st March is St David’s Day, and it’s time for
the Welsh to wear daffodils or leeks. Shakespeare called this custom ‘an
honourable tradition begun upon an honourable request’ - but nobody knows the
reason. Why should anyone have ever
‘requested’ that the Welsh wear leeks or daffodils to honour their patron
saint? It’s a mystery!

We do know that David - or Dafydd - of Pembrokeshire was a
monk and bishop of the 6th century. In
the 12th century he was made patron of Wales, and he has the honour of being
the only Welsh saint to be canonised and culted in the Western Church.
Tradition has it that he was austere with himself, and generous with others -
living on water and vegetables (leeks, perhaps?!) and devoting himself to works
of mercy. He was much loved.

In art, St David is usually depicted in Episcopal vestments,
standing on a mound with a dove at his shoulder, in memory of his share at an
important Synod for the Welsh Church, the Synod of Brevi.