Manspreading, Wine o’clock and Awesomesauce?

Every year, and sometimes more than once a year, the Oxford English Dictionary releases a list of the new words that have been added to its august, learned and respected pages. I was really surprised to find that it was only in 2015 that the word ‘declutter’, as a noun, a verb, and almost every other part of speech, was added to the OED.

‘Decluttering’ has been a major feature of our family life since the middle of last year. It was almost as though, with the news that we would be moving from Sussex to Lincolnshire, and the beginning of all that inevitable ‘decluttering’, the OED decided to give the process that was about to dominate our lives its very own endorsement.

Of course, ‘declutter’ was not the only new word to be added to the OED in August 2015. There was also ‘manspreading’, ‘cupcakery’, ‘wine o’clock’ and ‘awesomesauce’. As I write this, I am desperately trying to think of a way in which these words could be used to improve and enhance my way of communicating with the people I meet every day.

When I travel on public transport I often encounter ‘manspreading’ (apparently, this is the way that men (!) spread out on a seat that is meant for two people so that they do not have to share the space). However, I struggle to think of a reason why such rudeness and selfishness needs to be dignified with a special word of its own.

I am not sure why I would ever want to describe a bakery that produces cup-cakes as a ‘cupcakery’, although I can think of the odd time when the phrase ‘wine o’clock’ might be useful!

I wonder if anyone has any idea what the last of the new words in my list means? ‘Awesomesauce’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the gravy you may be pouring over your roast dinner, nor is it a description of the latest culinary trend to emerge from the kitchens of all those celebrity chefs that grace our televisions. No! ‘Awesomesauce’ is simply another word for ‘excellent’.

It seems strange that my curiosity to discover when the word ‘declutter’ entered the English language led me down such cluttered and unnecessary by-ways.

Of course, there is nothing new about this level of obfuscation! It is so much easier for us to wrap things up in fancy language than to acknowledge the reality of our lives in simple (and frankly honest) terms.

In St Luke’s gospel we read of the call of Levi the tax collector. Two thousand years ago, the Roman Empire used local collaborators as vehicles for raising the funds they needed to finance their occupation of much of the known world. Those tax collectors were the pariahs of the societies in which they lived and worked. They would definitely have been guilty of ‘manspreading’ if there had been such a thing as public transport. However, in just two verses of Luke’s gospel, we read of how someone who had definitely taken the wrong path through life turned all of that around.

Luke tells us that Jesus said to Levi: “Follow me.” Then we are told: “He got up, left everything, and followed him.”

Now isn’t that the ultimate example of ‘decluttering’ one’s life? There are no long and fancy words, no new words had to be invented. There was no rushing to the ‘cupcakery’ to get a few provisions for the journey, and no need to wait until ‘wine o’clock’ to find the strength to follow that ‘awesomesauce’ call from Jesus.

On 15th May the Church will be celebrating the Feast of Pentecost (it used to be called ‘Whitsun’). The Church will be remembering the moment when God sent his Holy Spirit to strengthen and guide us on our journeys through this life. The Holy Spirit did not come with a load of fancy trappings. The Holy Spirit came ‘pre-decluttered’ as a beacon to guide us into the life that God calls us all to lead.

I pray that you will find the strength to declutter all that stops you living your lives to the full, in the strength of God’s Holy Spirit. Amen.

Revd Stephen Buckman

Jesus himself came near and went with them …

Having journeyed through the forty days of Lent, and having celebrated the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, we now find ourselves in the fifty day season of Easter. During these days the Church is bedecked in white and worshippers are invited to revel in the joy of that greatest moment in the history of humanity – the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

One of the great joys of this season is the opportunity we are given, through the Church’s cycle of readings, to share in the sheer joy of the disciples at finding all of their despair turned into unimaginable and indescribable happiness. Of course, as with anything that seems too good to be true, the time immediately following the events of Good Friday are met with uncertainty, even doubt. However all of that apprehension is set aside as it becomes obvious that Jesus really has risen from the dead. Those who found the empty tomb wondered, quite naturally, what had been happened to Jesus’ body. Thomas, having missed the disciples’ first meeting with the risen Jesus, doubted that it could possibly be true. Indeed, it took Jesus himself standing before Thomas and inviting him to inspect his wounds to convince the doubter that he was the one who had got it wrong. The whole post-crucifixion narrative in the gospels is one of people coming to see that Jesus is indeed risen.

The Church’s pattern of readings is planned on a three year cycle. I mention this merely as an aside to explain why this year we will not be hearing one of my favourite readings from Luke’s gospel. In Years A and B of the cycle we hear the account of two people walking the seven miles from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus. They had not heard of Jesus’ resurrection and were still desperately sad that the authorities had executed the man who they had seen as their Lord and their Saviour. As they were walking along and discussing the tragic events of the previous couple of days, the gospel tells us that: ‘Jesus himself came near and went with them.’ It is those wonderful words that have always resonated with me in this post-resurrection story. In those few words, contained within this simple account, is the heart of the Easter message. Jesus did share in the harsh reality of our earthly lives two thousand years ago, but he also transcended the cruelty of our human frailty in order that he might give us the hope, comfort and joy of his presence in our lives for all time.

The disciples were scattered and in despair, the travellers on the road to Emmaus were disconsolate and puzzled by what had happened, and Thomas doubted. And yet, all of that unhappiness and misery was turned to inexpressible joy when Jesus conquered the powers of this world and rose from the dead – for each and every one of us!

Wherever you find yourself on your pilgrimage through life, remember that Jesus himself has drawn near, and is waiting to walk with you. Jesus is waiting to hold your hand and lead you into the joy of his resurrection. And, if you find it difficult to walk with him, then let him carry you through those dark times – his loving arms are strong and accepting of all.

I pray that as we journey together through this joyous season of Easter you may be able to say, with Thomas (who once doubted): ‘My Lord and my God’ as you experience Jesus himself drawing near to, and travelling, with you.

Revd Stephen Buckman

Open Daily …

One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Corby Glen was that it is difficult to find the church. In most towns and villages throughout the country the Parish Church is marked by one or more signposts pointing the curious in the right direction. Sometimes the sign bears the church’s name, and sometimes it simply says ‘Parish Church’. Of course, that isn’t necessary when the church sits on, or next to, the village green but here, in Corby Glen, that is not the case. The Church of St John the Evangelist sits at the end of a cul de sac; it is not particularly visible from any vantage point in the village; it sits there, open daily, unmarked and yet ever present.

At this point in human history, some may ask why the Parish Church should be signposted. Some may choose to think of it as a pretty, historic building that is there to enjoy as and when it is convenient. For others it is a useful oasis of calm in the turbulent rollercoaster ride that we call daily life. For another group, the Parish Church is the natural and convenient place in which to mark the great landmarks in their lives – christenings, weddings and funerals. For one significant group it is a spiritual home – somewhere to go and rest in the presence of God.

The role of the Parish Church in the lives of our communities is steeped in history. Every person in our country lives in a Church of England parish. The system of registering births, deaths and marriages began in the parish system. That link still exists today. Every person in this country has the right to be baptised, married and sent into the nearer presence of God from their Parish Church. Whether you are a church-goer or not, your Parish Church is always there to serve you, and those nearest and dearest to you.

The benefice of the Corby Glen Group (Bassing-thorpe, Bitchfield, Burton-le-Coggles, Corby Glen, Irnham and Swayfield) is greatly blessed with six beautiful and historic churches. They are all so different, and yet they all possess a sense of having been valued and loved for hundreds of years. Every time I step into one of our churches I have a great sense of having been passed the spiritual baton for the comparatively short time I will be the priest here.

As part of my role as your parish priest I go to the church at least twice a day and pray. I go at 9 o’clock every morning and at 5 o’clock every evening to say Morning and Evening Prayer. In doing that I am very aware that I am joining a pilgrimage of Christians who have been saying their Daily Offices (as those points in the day are called) in those places for centuries; I am also joining in a non-stop cycle of prayer that is going on throughout the world today and every day. When I make those visits to the church I am praying not only as a part of the universal church, but also as your parish priest – for you and for all those issues that are so relevant to all of us as we live out our days in this community.

Of course, that responsibility to pray on a daily basis is not mine alone – it is a duty that has been laid upon all of us. At this point in the Christian calendar there is a particular emphasis on prayer and reflection. As we journey through Lent, we are all called not just to take part in some sort of ‘holy diet plan’ by giving up chocolate or alcohol or whatever. Rather, we are called to make some small sacrifice to remind ourselves of the plight of so many in this world who have nothing and, at the same time, we are called to take up something that helps to alleviate the terrible deprivations that are experienced by so many.

Now – I realise that we all have lives that are rooted here in South Lincolnshire but there is still some-thing we can do. Something that is already being done, and something that is free and open to all. We can pray. We can all take that short walk, even though it isn’t signposted, to St John’s (if you live in Corby Glen), or to whichever church is closest to you, and spend a few moments in prayer.

And how do we do that? Well, we push open the gate that is open daily; we pass through the door that is open daily; we sit in the presence of the loving arms of God which are open daily; and we simply ask for His love and peace to pour out on us, and on this troubled and divided world. That’s it! That is all that we are called to do!

At the end of this month the Church will be celebrating the greatest feast of the year – Easter. The Church will be remembering the moment when Jesus Christ was not only crucified by the political powers of his day, but also the moment when he overcame those earthly powers by rising from the dead. We will be celebrating a moment when God made the ultimate sacrifice for all of us. That once and for all-time act of self-sacrifice has laid open the love of God for us all, each and every day of our lives.

I invite you to take that unmarked road to your Parish Church; to go through the gate and door that are open daily; and to say thank you to God for all that is good in your lives and, at his invitation, to lay your troubles at his feet so that you might know the true joy and peace that can only come from God.

Revd Stephen Buckman

What are you giving up for Lent?

For eight years I taught in a girls’ school, and for six weeks of each of those years I used to hear students regularly say to each other: ‘I have given that up for Lent.’ In no other place I have ever heard so many people use those words with such consistent regularity. I am not sure how many of them knew exactly what they were saying. I often wondered if they even knew what Lent was. Nevertheless each year, on Ash Wednesday, there began the regular use of that phrase: ‘I have given that up for Lent.’

This year, because of the strange way in which the Church’s calendar sets the date for Easter, Lent begins early. Ash Wednesday, the official first day of Lent, is on the tenth of February. If I was still teaching in that school in Sussex I know, that from the morning of that day, all those students would be denying themselves of something because they had given it up for Lent.

Since those days I have become more aware of how often people do say that they have given something up for Lent. I often ponder on whether they realise that Lent is, historically, so much more than an annual dieting opportunity, or an annual period of detoxification. That, of course, is usually what is at the heart of all that self-denial. All those students were usually denying themselves nothing more than chocolate, or sweets, or some other fattening substance; all those other people were often denying themselves of alcohol. If only they knew that they were getting it wrong.

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A Happy New Year to you all …

Here we are again – at the beginning of another year!

For some this will be a time of wondering why the beginning of 2015 feels as though it was only the day before yesterday. For some the beginning of another New Year is a moment to dread; for others it will be the opening of an exciting door of challenge and opportunity. However you approach the dawning of a another New Year – 2016 is upon us!

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