Wednesday 27 August 2014

Seeing Others Through Your Own Dark Glasses

It's strange what a bit of romance or invention can do for a religion. Especially somebody else's. The picture is, according to the people of the 18th Century, exactly what the folk at Stonehenge were up to in the Druidic era. Arks of the Covenant,  snakes, processions, banners - everything the modern druid was after in worship. You can imagine the thrill as the worshippers gathered, the solemn cries of the druids, the awesome refrains of the bardic harpists.

Of course, it's an illusion. The artist thought these worshippers were British druids and their followers -  what people somewhat later would class as "Celtic". If anything like this ever happened (unlikely) it would have been Beaker People - the Stone and Bronze Age inhabitants of Wessex - not Celts, whether Brythonic or Belgic. Their Druids would have been friendlier, more charismatic, somehow more holy than their Celtic equivalents. Obviously. Stands to reason.

But it's an illusion in another way. Maybe it's a function of time difference, or of distance in theology and tradition, but do you imagine this as some fantastic, climatic experience or is that just my delusion? Do you assume some fantastic quality - as opposed to the mundane nature of your regular worship, in a 17th Century preaching box with a drip in the corner and another in the pulpit, or in your school hall you rent, whose walls are covered in pictures of Hindu gods because that's what they're doing in RE this week, so you have to turn them around every Sunday morning before the service and restore them afterwards?

In short - when everyone is telling you what a great service it was do you think, 90% of the time, that you must have been at a different service?

I reckon that after the service in the picture, in which you can't tell that the solsticial sunrise was obscured by a cold, heavy drizzle, the harpists went off not speaking to each other, because one of them played a B sharp when it was a Bmin key. And the Archdruid was grumpy because she hadn't been as inspirational as she'd imagined when she wrote her sermon and she was blaming the head cold.

And half the congregation went off cold and miserable.  But a few teenage enthusiasts were raving about how great the worship was - and why couldn't they have such a good service at the Rollright Stones every full moon?

Because a lot of what we take out of worship, we bring to it.  And that's not surprising as we're human.  And if the druids went off grumpy because they only saw the crescent, while the bass harpist saw the whole of the moon - then was that because they were less inspired? Or he had a better digestion - was more resilient when it came to attendance at sunset then midnight then the bug fight with the wolf then sunrise? Next year maybe he'll have struggled to get into the mood on account of a bad case of Black Death.

We are all fragile and leaky. And we can think that other traditions and times had or have it easy. But our limited and unsatisfying experiences, with glimpses of something greater, are reminders that our eschatology is not realised, our experience is not perfect, we are still on a journey.

So look through your glass darkly, and prayer for it to be clearer. One day it will be as clear as crystal.  But, for today, don't worry if anyone else has a clearer view. Just enjoy what you can see, and share their joy. We'll all see better one day.

Of course, it's possible that you actually have a fantastic time in worship every time. In which case ignore me. I probably just need to pray harder.

1 comment :

  1. Nope, it's not just you. I reckon enjoying what we see will do to be going on with.


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