St James Ministry Team

A blog from the Ministry Team of St James Church, Colwall, Herefordshire, UK


The procession to Calvary

Quite appropriately, last Friday I was in front of this picture: [no longer available. Ed].

The first problem you have is to find Jesus. He's there in the middle, but surrounded by a crowd on the way to a football match - or maybe He is the football match. But part of the message, I am sure, is to pose the question, would we recognise Jesus if we saw Him today? Bearing in mind our preconceptions and busy-ness? Would we have time to see the saviour of the world go by?

But the picture raises many other questions, which perhaps I ought to do some research on to find out. What's that windmill doing perched so grotesquely on the peak? What is the circular structure in the distance? What are all the figures doing? You can tell it's a great picture by the length of time you spend in front of it.

Some questions I can answer. There are gibbets in the picture, not at all at odds with the contemporary scene. During the time Bruegel was painting, there were 5,000 executions in the course of 5 years, all a result of the Spanish rule trying to oppose the reformation in the Netherlands. This inquisition was directed by Cardinal Granvelle, who turns out to have bought many of Bruegel's paintings. What was going on? This painting, and also the Massacre of the Innocents, also in the KHM, but not in the catalogue, look like the work of an insurgent, not a collaborator. Michael Frayn, in his novel, Headlong, makes much of this in a very fascinating way. But this picture reminds us that Jesus was crucified by the established church of the day and I would say that the church is still a major obstacle to belief, as well as being a major agent for bringing people to God. How do we improve without being trendy or judgemental? How do we become like Christ?


The Heart Song

I came across a quotation the other day that has been at the back of my mind ever since:

"When words dies on the lips
a song begins in the heart."
(Rabindranath Tagore)
I may not have got it entirely right (of course I can't find it again now!) but the essence is there.
For me, at the moment, this speaks very strongly of the need to lay aside your expectations, your hopes and even your skills - the "words on your lips" - and listen to what God is trying to make you hear in your heart. In your heart, because you have to be willing to love what he sends, even if it is not what you want to say.

It speaks also to those terrible moments of loss that come to us all. It is only then that the heart has space, in silence of human agony, to begin to sing. Right now, at Passiontide, that is a challenging thought.

But the quotation could have so many other interpretations in different situations. Think about them. It may say something different to you.