Monday, March 30, 2020

...and in other news...

...and in other news...

A weekly newsletter from St Peter and St Paul, Seal, to help us keep in touch with one another at this time. 
The raising of Lazarus by Van Gogh
The Raising of Lazarus (after Rembrandt)
Vincent van Gogh (1853 - 1890), Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, May 1890

oil on paper, 50 cm x 65.5 cm. Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam (Vincent van Gogh Foundation)

The Gospel reading for March 29 was the story of the Raising of Lazarus. you can find it in John chapter 11. It's a dramatic story full of anguished waiting. I explored it a bit in the talk during our Sunday  morning. You can find the text of the talk on the church's sermon blog, and the whole recorded service here. (You don't have to listen on Spotify, by the way. Just scroll down the page and you'll find the direct links.)

Van Gogh's painting of the Raising of Lazarus catches the moment when Lazarus is called back from death into the world of the living. He has been buried in a cave cut out of the rock, like the one Jesus will be laid in, and we, the viewers, are inside it, looking out. The two women witnessing this are Martha and Mary, his sisters - one outside with her arms raised and the other, with her back to us, inside in the shadows.  Lazarus is sitting slowly up and seeing the world he thought he had bade farewell to, with a look on his face of numb bafflement.  Van Gogh painted this while he was in the Saint-Paul Asylum in Saint-Remy in France, in the last year of his life, inspired by an etching of the same scene from a painting by Rembrandt and it is suggested that the figure of Lazarus is a self-portrait, since Lazarus has the same red beard as Van Gogh did. Apparently the colours of the pigments have faded a bit over time. The blues in the foreground contrasted more originally with the bright colours of the background, but it still captures very well the astonishment of the moment, and the complexity of this strange story which points forward to the death and resurrection of Jesus, which happened just a few weeks later, according to the Gospels.
What do you think of this picture?
What do you think the figures in it would say to us, if we could talk to them?

This lovely prayer comes from "Each Day, Each Night" by Philip J. Newell, and it is one which I use every morning at the beginning of my morning prayer. It encourages me to look for Christ "and his sunlit company" throughout the day, in all that happens in it, even in situations which don't seem all that likely to contain any blessing. The photo is one I took last year of the sunrise over the Sea of Galilee.
By request from Hilary Curtis, our podcast worship this week started with a verse of "O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder". Here's the whole thing to sing along with! I wrote about this hymn a few years ago in our 2017 Lent reflections

What's everyone doing to keep busy and cheerful? 

Listening in on the chat between Friday Group members, it sounds like there has been a huge amount of gardening going on. Here at the vicarage, Philip has been hacking back brambles and stinging nettles .I'm starting to worry that there won't be any garden left by the time he's finished!

Seal Cubs and Beavers, and children from the school too, have been making rainbows to decorate their windows.(My contribution to all this was a youtube video of me telling the story of Noah )

Friday "groupers" have also been digging out the Christmas lights... (Why should they just be for Christmas?) ... and putting them in their windows, along with a candle, lit as a prayer each evening. See Sue Buddin's picture below. (Make sure you don't burn the house down if you do this - there is quite enough to deal with without that!)

Home Groups have been "Zooming" and "Skyping" and What'sapping, and there's a lot of phoning going on -  it's been great to see how the people of Seal have been finding ways of keeping in contact. We had a PCC Standing Committee meeting by Zoom conference call the other day, to catch up on some of the practicalities of running the church, which worked quite well - though you really do have to listen, and not talk over each other, which is a good discipline for any time!

My appeal a few weeks back for book recommendations for "the duration" produced some interesting suggestions. Some people are going for the classics - Jane Austen and Agatha Christie are Gesiena's choices. Others prefer non fiction. Heather Alwen recommended a lovely book of letters, compiled by Simon Sebag Montefiore "Written in History: Letters that Changed the World" . If, like me, you're finding it hard to concentrate for long at the moment, then something you can dip into is ideal.

Maybe there's a film you can recommend that people could find on Netflix or some such. I have discovered which streams ballet, opera and plays - there's a 30 day free trial offer on at the moment.

Crafts are another great way of occupying the mind just enough to help us forget all the other things we may be worrying about, and I confess to buying wool to crochet yet another blanket. I know I don't need one, but there's need and "need"... (evidence of crochet-related activity below)

Let me know if you have any tips to pass on for things that might occupy time and cheer us up - send along photos if you can, and I'll include them here. 

And finally...

I know I promised a Co****v***s free zone, but I couldn't resist including this story from the Guardian, about an astrophysicist who decided to try to invent a device to remind people not to touch their faces. Suffice it to say, it didn't turn out quite as he imagined.
"An Australian astrophysicist has been admitted to hospital after getting four magnets stuck up his nose in an attempt to invent a device that stops people touching their faces during the coronavirus outbreak.
Dr Daniel Reardon, a research fellow at Melbourne university, was building a necklace that sounds an alarm on facial contact, when the mishap occurred on Thursday night.
The 27 year-old astrophysicist, who studies pulsars and gravitational waves, said he was trying to liven up the boredom of self-isolation with the four powerful neodymium magnets.
“I had a part that detects magnetic fields. I thought that if I built a circuit that could detect the magnetic field, and we wore magnets on our wrists, then it could set off an alarm if you brought it too close to your face. A bit of boredom in isolation made me think of that.”
However, the academic realised the electronic part he had did the opposite – and would only complete a circuit when there was no magnetic field present.
“I accidentally invented a necklace that buzzes continuously unless you move your hand close to your face,” he said.
“After scrapping that idea, I was still a bit bored, playing with the magnets. It’s the same logic as clipping pegs to your ears – I clipped them to my earlobes and then clipped them to my nostril and things went downhill pretty quickly when I clipped the magnets to my other nostril.”
Reardon said he placed two magnets inside his nostrils, and two on the outside. When he removed the magnets from the outside of his nose, the two inside stuck together. Unfortunately, the researcher then attempted to use his remaining magnets to remove them.
“At this point, my partner who works at a hospital was laughing at me,” he said. “I was trying to pull them out but there is a ridge at the bottom of my nose you can’t get past.
“After struggling for 20 minutes, I decided to Google the problem and found an article about an 11-year-old boy who had the same problem. The solution in that was more magnets. To put on the outside to offset the pull from the ones inside.
“As I was pulling downwards to try and remove the magnets, they clipped on to each other and I lost my grip. And those two magnets ended up in my left nostril while the other one was in my right. At this point I ran out of magnets.”
Before attending the hospital, Reardon attempted to use pliers to pull them out, but they became magnetised by the magnets inside his nose.
“My partner took me to the hospital that she works in because she wanted all her colleagues to laugh at me. The doctors thought it was quite funny, making comments like ‘This is an injury due to self-isolation and boredom.’”
At the hospital, a team of two doctors applied an anaesthetic spray and manually removed the magnets from Reardon’s nose. "

Just don't do it, people, however bored you are!

(I showed Philip this story, and then wondered if I should have done. He's a keen "inventor" and I worry that he might take it as a challenge rather than a warning...)

Anyway - that's all for now. Stay at home and stay well!
best wishes

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