Arriving back in London was a bit of a shock. I left Jerusalem in lovely sunshine with the temperature around 25 degrees. It felt like summer! I arrived back in the dark, with the evidence of recent rain, a temperature of 9 degrees and evidence all around that winter was approaching. Driving into London we passed through a number of streets lit with Christmas lights and shops all dressed up with trees and fake snow.
As I put the television on (something I hadn’t done whilst away) the Festival of Remembrance was underway in the Royal Albert Hall and the usual procession in was taking place and the poppies were falling. I was home.
Remembrance Sunday is the occasion when many people pause and think. That two-minute silence at 11.00am as Her Majesty at the Cenotaph in Whitehall leads the nation in its remembering is an opportunity just to think, if not to pray. That is what I now need to do.
This coming week I’ll be on retreat at Mucknell Abbey in Worcestershire. It will give me the space for my own pause, space for my own thinking about what I’ve experienced over the last six weeks and that, to be honest, is so much. In some ways it already feels like a dream, a rich, intense dream and I can’t let it become that – it was so much more important. It needs to become something of my reality not of my fantasy. The problem is that Jerusalem is fantasy and reality and for much of our tradition, and because most people don’t get to go to the place themselves, it can remain on that level, the city that we talk about in the church all the time, idealise, theologise. But Jerusalem is real.
After the marching had ended and the procession of the choir and the Bishop of Carlisle had entered the Royal Albert Hall, the audience, now a congregation, joined in lustily singing ‘Jerusalem’ to the rousing tune that Sir Hubert Parry composed 100 years ago. As the hymn was sung what was going through the minds of those who filled that great arena – perhaps more fantasy than reality as far as Jerusalem, the city of peace that longs for peace, was concerned.
So I need to pause and think and pray and it will be good to take you into that pause for as Jesus said to his disciples
‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.’ (Mark 6.31)
God, speak to me in the pause.
Between the breaths,
between the heart beats,
may I hear the still small voice.