Each month a different member of the Trinity congregation prepares a few words which we hope that you will find interesting and thought-provoking.
Active or Passive- a blessing on both?
Many of us were brought up always to be active, for we were warned that the ‘Devil finds work for idle hands’. So those who did not work were wastrels and idle layabouts!! I have conducted many funerals where, in the tribute to the deceased, I have heard - ‘S/he was active to the end, even in his/her 90s still cooking, still doing the garden etc. Wonderful!’
So being active is good and inactive or passive is bad – this attitude is almost bred into the majority of us and its consequence is a sense of guilt and shame if one is not able to be active or not able to work- you are made to feel a burden!
Over Lent I re-read a book written by W. H. Vanstone, former Canon of Chester Cathedral, first published in a 1982, its title: ‘The Stature of Waiting’. In it he traces Jesus’ ministry from one of activity to its sudden halt in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Judas ‘hands him over’ to his enemies; ( Betrayal is not really a correct translation of the Greek text). Jesus allows himself to be handed over, and this is made particularly clear in Mark’s Gospel. From the moment of his arrest Jesus’ passion begins- and by passion is not necessarily meant pain, but rather passivity- everything is taken out of your control, so rarely does Jesus even speak following his captivity.
Ring any bells in today’s world? So many are no longer masters of their own destiny – many are taken to hospital into ITU, sedated, and even their breathing done for them. As for the rest of us so much of our activity is curtailed, and we suddenly realise just how dependent we are on others such as van drivers, Amazon packers, shop workers and, of course, medical staff and other hospital staff!
We need to get away from the idea that activity is essential to our well-being and to our playing a role in society. Jesus was as much Saviour of the World, when in fastened to the Cross, as when healing the sick and preaching the Good News. Our significance as human beings is not diminished by our inactivity.
To quote Vanstone: ‘There must be a rediscovery of the dignity which belongs to a person as a patient, as object, as one who waits upon the world and receives that which is done to them’.
He goes on to illustrate his point with a story- at the centre of a small district of rehoused people there was a mother of five who became confined to bed for several months, but the neighbours all decided to muck in and began to care collectively for her and her children and, by so doing, came to know each other as they worked together in this informal way. And a community was born of neighbourliness. The lady herself was resentful and felt life was passing her by, and yet she was, in a sense, playing a vital role, the most important of her life.
She needed the grace to accept this for, as Richard Gillard reminds us, in his lovely hymn we need to:
‘Brother, sister, let me serve you,
let me be as Christ to you;
pray that I may have the grace to let me be your servant too.’
Rev. John Whittle
Member of Trinity Church