A handful of stones
David Parry reflects on keeping count.
So teach us to count our days that we may gain a wise heart.
Reverend David Parry writes:
“They found six stones in the pocket Watson; do you not understand what this means?” Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never actually wrote that sentence. It comes from my own over-active imagination. But if he had, what would Sherlock Holmes, the famous detective, have deduced?
Six stones in a pocket means a cricket umpire, of course. Apologies to those with no interest in (or even a hatred of) cricket, but please stick with me for the reason I’m telling you this. Stones are the traditional way of keeping count in an over. The umpire transfers a stone from one hand to the other each time a ball is bowled. All six bowled means that the over is now … over (complete).
Surely an umpire can count to six without messing about with stones you might think. But there are lots of overs in a day’s play and a lot going on in each over. Losing count would be surprisingly easy, plus highly public and embarrassing! The tangible, physical reality of the stones is also reassuring. I won’t lose count. I can feel these stones in my hand.
On Sunday 15th March we did not know there would be no more public worship in our church buildings for the next seventeen Sundays (so far). Like a stopped clock, the Church’s calendar suddenly juddered to a halt. Lent 3 never turned into Mothering Sunday. Even Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost all passed unmarked in our holy places – for the first time in many centuries of history.
This was profoundly unsettling for people of faith. Robbed of familiar weekly people and places, we felt like an umpire who only discovers too late that there is a hole in their pocket!
Yet the Holy Spirit and the human heart turn out to be very resourceful. Unable to kneel at the Chancel step, we receive from God online. Unable to meet over coffee, we ‘Zoom’ or talk on the ‘phone’. Care is still shown, relationships nurtured, faith explored, strangers welcomed, Bibles read and worship offered.
So what are the new rhythms and patterns in your relationship with Jesus? What have you learnt about yourself and Him in these 17 weeks? Which new stones are you determined to hold onto, even after all the buildings are open once more? How will you ‘keep count’, how will you keep in step with God’s love, as His Kingdom unfolds in us week by week?
nad aeth dy Fab anwylaf i fyny i lawenydd
cyn iddo yn gyntaf ddioddef poen,
na mynd i mewn i’r gogoniant
cyn iddo gael ei groeshoelio:
caniatâ yn drugarog i ni,
gan gerdded ffordd y groes,
ganfod nad yw’n ddim arall
ond ffordd bywyd a thangnefedd;
trwy Iesu Grist ein Harglwydd
sy’n fyw ac yn teyrnasu gyda thi a’r Ysbryd Glân,
yn un Duw, yn awr ac am byth. Amen.
whose most dear Son went not up to joy
but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
mercifully grant that we,
walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.
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