where meek souls will receive him…

Snow-drifts form year-round along Rye Lane.

The fishmongers shovel out their smelly ice into the drains, and with your eyes half-closed you could almost see a traditional Christmas scene.  Snow had fallen, snow on snow.

With eyes opened, there’s more colour.  Fruit boxes and discarded veg.  Lit-up butchers shops, and roof-high stacks of tins and packets of seasoning I didn’t see much before I came to Peckham.  Nail bars, phone accessories winking, sheaves of hair.

Walking back from church today I was overwhelmed with the glorious ordinariness of it all. Peckham’s fishmongers and butchers, commuters and Christmas-shoppers, parents and school-children, just getting on with being themselves.  Next week God might be born.  But today I need to get a bus, I need some peppers, I’ve got one day left of school.  Forget traditional Christmas scenes. This is the week before Christmas, Mary and Joseph wandering around Bethlehem looking for a room in streets with colour and smells and ordinary people crowding them.

Along Rye Lane there are anonymous doors to flats squeezed between the shops.  Mary and Joseph knock at one – a distant relative offers the back of his shop to sleep in.  Another couple getting on with the immediate, with what needs to be done.  Easy to miss.

And I think about how invisible it was, really – the birth of God.  To the shepherds, the outsiders – yes, the big angel chorus – but to those brushing past Mary and Joseph on the bustling street – just another couple, another unremarkable baby-bump.  In little, insignificant Bethlehem.

Sometimes God does enter our lives with an angel chorus.  But sometimes just like this.  Moving in next door whilst we’re looking away. Turn around and there’s an extra guest at the table, raising a glass for all the world as though he’s the host.  You stop, and listen, and find that there’s been someone speaking to you all along.

but whatever you do…

One of my running routes takes me past Nazareth Gardens and the intriguing ‘Godman Road’ (before coming to an inglorious, red-faced pause at any traffic lights that have the courtesy to stop me at Nunhead Lane).

As a distraction from the boredom of running yesterday, I found myself imagining the planning meeting at which these roads were named.  It’s nearly Christmas and one of the town planners is utterly caught up, once again, in the ridiculous, world-changing fact of God, born in Jesus.  He gives thanks for his meals by saying a breathless grace to this God who also broke bread, ate, drank.  He bellows advent carols to Emmanuel, God with us, and wonders why the stones don’t join in there and then.  He looks at his hands and considers, head shaking, the human work that Jesus did with his human hands.  He wonders out loud at the pub what God’s human voice sounded like.

And then he goes into work, and they ask for ideas for road names.

They throw some ideas around – flowers?  Midlands towns?  And then, with a private wink at the Almighty, he proposes, straight-faced, “Godman Road”.

“What does that mean?” someone asks.  “What does Brayards Road mean?” he counters.  “I just think it’s got a ring”.

The motion carries.  Godman Road goes onto the signs and the maps to be noticed by generations of red-faced runners to come.

A Peckham Parable of a town planner so caught up in God’s story, God’s recolonisation of earth by heaven, that he cannot help but join in.  Using who he is, where he is, to plant a stake in the ground saying – this earth belongs to the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3.17

all things new

July is an eccentric time to make new years’ resolutions, I realise.* Still, here’s mine.  A blog.

Recently, I was ordained as a priest in a weighty wonderful – albeit somewhat lengthy – service in Lewisham.  Bishop Michael ordained me – a man who appears so consistently bowled over by the joy of what he’s called to do that I really think I have never seen him without a deeply grateful and slightly surprised smile.

He read this: “[Priests] are to proclaim the word of the Lord and to watch for the signs of God’s new creation”.  I love this.  This watching work – it’s work for an explorer, a discoverer, with binoculars and walking shoes.  It’s work for a voracious film-watcher or passionate reader or an avid fan of TV dramas or theatre or sport.  For a scientist peering into microscope or telescope.  Someone with headphones, listening intently to cracking radio waves – or with tea, listening, as intently, to a neighbour.  It’s work for a child on a treasure hunt – “Look!  There!  Did you miss it?!”

It’s the work of faith because the signs of God’s new creation are here, and they are here in real places.  Outside Morrisons, at the overground station, in the shops.

The thing is, I can forget to look.  That’s the truth of the matter.  It’s all too easy to stand at the station catching up on texts, forgetting to see that the heavens are declaring the glory of God.  I can head to the shops for a paper and fail to notice the signs of beautiful and sacrificial love and transformative service in the shape of a woman pushing her friend in a wheelchair, the father struggling with baby on hip and toddler by the hand.  I can forget to hear the discovery of re-creation and long, slow, hard redemption in the story of a friend, submitting, all too easily, to small-talk again.

So this blog will remind me to watch.  I know I need reminders.

And that (neatly) invites me to invite your comments, reminders, suggestions and disagreements.  This work of watching is for us all, whoever we are.  Between us, we connect the flashes of light, beauty, justice, love that we spot – now we know in part – and we start to piece together what this new creation looks like in full view – as then, when we’ll see face to face. 

Binoculars out.  Radio on.  Jump in.

* I’m going to file this one under ‘following the one who is making all things new’.