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Epiphany: At the hour of our death… January 6, 2014

Posted by Phil Groom in Death, Life, Theological Reflection.
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SOMETIMES the truth hits you right between the eyes and leaves you reeling. That’s epiphany, I guess, and this was one of those moments for me, especially in this year of 2014, the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War.

From the funeral service of an old soldier:

At the hour of our death, it is to Jesus alone that we have to justify our life. He will not look at our accomplishments, he will look at our wounds, because he came not to be our judge but to be our saviour. No one is so lost that they cannot be redeemed by Christ.

There will be a final reckoning for all of us, of that I am sure: but that reckoning will not be by what we have achieved; rather by the wounds we have borne. So many lives lost, but not one wasted: by human standards, their wounds and the price they paid may well appear wasted; but to the One who sees all and knows all, those wounds are both salvation and healing. Judgement overturned, mercy in its place; or as James the Apostle put it, “Mercy triumphs over judgement.”

If you look back over your life and see only a string of failings, do not be afraid: for the One to whom we must give account does not weigh us up by our successes or failures; he sees the scars inflicted along the way. Do not despair at your failings, gentle reader, and above all do not be ashamed of your wounds: they are your salvation:

He will not look at our accomplishments, he will look at our wounds, because he came not to be our judge but to be our saviour.

Epiphany? Ask the Camel January 3, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Advent and Christmas, Short Story.
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I wrote this story a few years ago, and it’s appeared in a couple of church magazines since. I think there’s still a bit a mileage left in it so I offer it afresh to you, my friends here in the blogosphere. It occurred to me that the word epiphany sounds rather like the noise I guess a camel makes when it spits. Maybe that’s where the word comes from? Or maybe you know better?

Camel in the snowWe were Tired. And when I spell a word with a capital letter, I mean it: this was a T bigger than Nero’s Nose. Okay, okay, so Nero wasn’t around then – but you’ve got to realise that we camels don’t necessarily look at things the way you humans do. Future? Past? It’s all the same to us – we remember both ways, and a lot of your lives have been saved because of that, because we know where the next oasis is as well as where the last one was. In the desert, it’s a question of survival – and we survive.

But as I said, we were Tired. Almost as tired as God was when He invented the Sabbath. And now we were running scared, tripping over ourselves, nearly breaking our legs on the rough ground in the dark. I don’t know what scared my master most, the angel that warned us, or the warning he brought. But that mad king – Herod “the Great”, he styled himself – was after our blood. Because of the Child.

We’d been on the road for two years. It would have been a much shorter journey if our masters had let us find the way, but they were Magi – Magicians, or Astrologers as you’d call them. So-called ‘Wise Men’ without the wisdom to know that camels don’t make mistakes. My master had cursed me for most of the journey because I’d kept pulling in different directions. Phtui! In the end I just spat in disgust and let him have his way. He’d regret it later. And now, as we ran, he did. Sometimes I almost feel sorry for you humans – until I think of the Child. But you still haven’t understood, have you?

So after travelling more than twice the distance we needed to, we’d arrived. At the wrong place: Jerusalem. I spat angrily and snapped at the stable hand who came out to meet us. And after meeting with His Royal Bloodthirstiness, our masters had been redirected to Bethlehem – we were on the right road at last.

Camel in the snowThe star reappeared, right on cue, above the house. His mother brought Him out to see us and, ignoring my master completely, He looked me in the eye and winked. Only two years old, but He Knew. I knelt in front of Him and for the first time in my life, I swallowed my spit. And for the first time my master didn’t shout a warning about me – he was too busy kneeling himself.

It was going to take a long, long time and an awful lot of pain, but Things were going to Change. And I’m not talking about me stopping spitting.

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