Life, the Faith, and Everything: 10 August

Three funerals this week. All the deceased had been generous, uncomplaining women. One collapsed and died at Bingo. Another waved to her husband and son coming in the door, lay back and let go. The third hung on against all odds so she could die at home. Three warmly cherished ladies.

Praying Jesus’ Way continues in Bilston on Tuesday evenings. I thought Jesus had said to focus on how the Holy Spirit flows in us so that we pray according to the Father’s will. It’s not just us praying, but Him praying in us. Tongues is the most obvious way the Spirit prays in us. Praying in tongues is not new to Bilston, but very few do it and many have questions about it. We prayed, asking the Holy Spirit to come according to a picture each person chose for themselves. (See Grove Booklet: Person Centred Prayer Ministry ) One woman, who had asked for the Holy Spirit to come as a catalogue so she could know what to ask for, burst out in a beautiful flow of tongues. The interpretation which came to me was a lovely hymn of praise to our Abba Father. The rest of the group said they felt a deep sense of peace – surprising with this loud gobbledegook going on! One member was deeply touched, saying he had been ‘ambushed.’

In the Anglican Communion attention has shifted to Liberals criticising the Archbishop of Canterbury for saying that, at best, they will be on ‘track two’ or a two track Communion. Some would rather cut loose altogether. If their way can’t prevail, they’ll turn their backs on the rest of us. It’s sad that they cannot heed Rowan W’s call to repudiate a ‘competitive hostility.’ But it’s early days. Flak from both sides shows that Rowan W is on the right lines at last.

George Eliot’s Scenes of Clerical Life (which I am reading now) surprisingly contains a wonderful depiction of the grace and power of true Evangelical faith – Janet’s Repentance. I had thought that George E had repudiated her simplistic Evangelical early years, for a cultured liberalism, pitying the poor ignorami who still thought the Gospel accounts contained eye witness accounts of a real Jesus. But she begins Scenes lamenting: ‘Mine, I fear, is not a well-regulated mind: it has an occasional tenderness for old abuses … and has a sigh for the departed shades of vulgar errors.’ Directly this refers to a tenderness for village church life in the ‘old days.’ When she comes to honest and fervent Evangelicalism the tenderness is far more than occasional. Such faith she deems rare; she neatly describes the various ways in which true faith becomes compromised. But transforming grace working through faith alone can be seen wonderfully fleshed out not only in Janet’s Repentance, but also in Adam Bede and Silas Marner.

I wonder if her choosing to use a pseudonym was to give her freedom to commend Evangelicalism despite the views of her cultured circle? Other women happily wrote as women. She was not prone to shame, brazenly living with a married man. But maybe her heart was still attached to the faith she had tasted and lived in, while her mind, and her companions, had moved determinedly on. The prospect of cultured ridicule for an attachment to simple faith was more than she could bear. Such ridicule certainly does cut deep.

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