Sunday 17 July 2022

Martha and Mary and John Clare and Nora Batty

Sat here after the Folk Night at the end of the John Clare Festival and reflecting on this morning's Lectionary reading of Martha and Mary.

If he weren't already in love with one, John Clare would be a Mary of course. His record of indolence, laying in ditches and general mimsying about would ensure that.

Coming forward to our own time, I remember in the Last of the Summer Wine.episode, "Happy Birthday Robin Hood", Alvin Smedley (more hygienic occupier of the house of the late Compo Simmonite) is sitting outside his house while Nora Batty is making the dust fly around with that broom. Alvin asks her something along the lines of, don't you ever think of giving some time to vino? To which Nora replies, "Life's not for vino. Life's for sweeping."

The day after Nora died, of course, her steps were dusty again. Can you take memories of clean steps with you? As the Philosopher said, "Vanity; vanity; all is vanity."

Martha's got God in her front room. And she's in the kitchen, cutting the crusts off sandwiches.

And we live in a world where our productivity is often all that is seen to matter. Measured as economic units. Told to get back out to the office as soon as ministers worry that JD Wetherspoon and Pret a Manger  might find their profits endangered. Whisked on straight roads, round interesting villages, to ensure we get from A to B as efficiently as possible regardless of how boring.

Sometimes it's a good idea to stop and stare. Read a single verse of the Bible and think about it for a week. See the glory of the Lord in the beauty of a leaf. Hold hands. Ideally with someone you should be holding hands with. Talk to your family while there's time. I've never heard a funeral sermon that included the words, "most of all we give thanks for all the time they spent improving the formatting on PowerPoints."

The 2nd Law of Thermodynamics meant Nora Batty's steps could never be kept clean. From dust she came, and to dust they will return. Mary chose the right thing. To sit at the feet of the Master and listen.

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