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Sandal Magna Parish

Bible Image a Day 29th May

Images recur throughout the Bible, but are concentrated in the books which are written as poetry. The Psalms, Wisdom and Prophetic literature have an intensity of imagery and heightened speech which is vivid and memorable. Images do not occur in isolation so it is helpful to have a sense of how they are knit together in a distinctive poetic form.

The poetic form mostly used is parallelism, a unit of two lines or couplets (the technical term is distich). The couplets can be similar, contrasting, or build to a climax.

Synonyms are often used to enhance the meaning and emotion:
In this poignant passage the finality of death is evoked in two sets of parallel lines:
"Remember God,
before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;

before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,

and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it."1

The two lines can develop the theme from physical to spiritual:
"As the deer pants for streams of water,
so my soul pants for you, O God." 2

Contrasting images create an interplay of light and shade:
"Keep me as the apple of your eye;
hide me in the shadow of your wings."3

A proverb often exploits the two lines to contrast the wise with the foolish:
"The wise inherit honour,
but fools he holds up to shame."3

In this proverb, the downward movement of the first line is changed to an upward movement in the second:
"Pride comes before a fall,
but humility comes before honour."4

The two lines can build to a climax of affirmation:
"My soul finds rest in God alone;
my salvation comes from him
He alone is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I shall never be shaken."5

In Isaiah 61:2-3 we see all three kinds of parallelism; similar images, a progression of contrasting images, building up to the climax of God’s affirmation.

It begins with a pair of synonyms; comfort/provide, mourn/grieve:
"To comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion."

It continues with three contrasts; beauty/ashes, gladness/mourning, praise/despair:
"To bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
The oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
And a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair."

It concludes with a resounding affirmation of God’s intention:
"They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendour."6

In this passage the concrete images give the abstract ideas their memorable meaning;
'a crown of beauty', with its connotation of royal favour,
'the oil of gladness', healing and enlivening,
'a garment of praise', representing the enfolding of God,
'oaks of righteousness', signifying stability and strength.

There is surprising variety in this simple poetic form. The rhythm is created by three or four stresses per line, and allow repetition, rhetorical questions and other poetic devices to add variety to the parallel lines.

"I lift my eyes up to the hills -
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the maker of heaven and earth."7

In Psalm 29, the poet begins with an invitation to worship.
The next six couplets begin with the repeated phrase "The voice of the LORD" followed by an illustration of his majestic power, culminating in the last verse which has an extra climactic line to end with:
"The voice of the LORD twists the oaks
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, 'Glory'"8

The psalm ends with the calm after the storm as God surveys the scene and blesses his people:
"The LORD sits enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King for ever.
The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace."9

In one of the most astonishing poetic passages, God speaks out of the whirlwind at the end of the Book of Job. Image is piled upon image in a surging torrent of imaginative energy, culminating in graphic descriptions of two creatures, Behemoth and Leviathan, who represent God’s awe-inspiring power:
"It makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron
and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment.
It leaves a glistening wake behind it;
one would think the deep had white hair.
Nothing on earth is its equal –
a creature without fear.
It looks down on all that are haughty;
it is king over all that are proud."10

Vivid imagery and powerful rhythms convey an imaginative and compassionate response to the suffering of Job, which transcends the misguided theological arguments of his friends, and embodies the passionate love of God for all he has created.

1 Ecclesiastes 12:6-7
2 Psalm 42:1
3 Psalm 17:8
4 Proverbs 3:35
5 Proverbs 18:12
6 Psalm 62:1-2
7 Isaiah 61:2-3
7 Psalm 121:1-2
9 Psalm 29:10-11
10 Job 41:31-34
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The sound of a mighty, rushing wind in the leaves of this Silver Birch Tree at Shipley Glen. ... See MoreSee Less

Bible Image a Day 28th May

Climbing a Beech tree, the leaves swirl around you in the freshening wind. The tree braces vigorously with each gust. You hear the sound of the ocean in the leaves. The swaying motion makes you dizzy as the ground recedes. Exhilarating, terrifying, invigorating.

The wind symbolises God’s immensity compared to our fragility.
“He makes the clouds his chariot
and rides on the wings of the wind.
He makes winds his messengers,
flames of fire his servants.”1

With the ease of an eagle, “He soars on the wings of the wind.”2
God is in his element.

God is not in the business of destruction as Elijah discovered: “The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind.”3

Wind and rain can cause rockfall and landslides. Its destructive power can seem arbitrary and unjust. A messenger brings news to Job of a family calamity: “Suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!’”4 Job feels helpless in the hurricane of loss and grief: “You snatch me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm.”5

God does not abandon him, but speaks to him out of the centre of a whirlwind. He asks Job searching questions about who is in charge of all this awe-inspiring creation.

Jesus questions the fearful disciples after he has calmed the wind and the waves: “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’”6

In his parable of the house built on rock and sand, the wind comes to test the strength of our foundations in the living Word: “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.”7

Jesus speaks to Nicodemus of the unpredictable nature of the Spirit: “The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”8 Like the invisible wind, the spirit can only be seen through its effect on creation and people. The Spirit is free to go where it chooses: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”9

When the Spirit is distributed in tongues of fire among the disciples on the day of Pentecost, it is the sound not the fury of the wind: “Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.”10

The Spirit comes in creative not destructive power, in a supernatural not a natural way. The result is the empowering of the fearful but prayerful disciples to go out and do the work of Christ in their neighbourhoods and beyond.

Gone are the winds of doubt and fear, emptiness and uncertainty. James writes: “the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.”11

Paul continues: "We become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming.”12

The wind of the Spirit is the breath of Jesus, invisible and mysterious, energising and empowering, awe-inspiring and intimate, freely available to all who ask.13

1 Psalm 104:3, 4
2 Psalm 18:10
3 1 Kings 19:11
4 Job 1:19
5 Job 30:22
6 Mark 4:38-41
7 Matthew 7:25
8 John 3:8
9 2 Corinthians 3:17
10 Acts 2:2
11 James 1:6
12 Ephesians 4:13-14
13 Luke11:13
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Photos from HTB Church's post ... See MoreSee Less

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Lovely creative tributes.SOME 30 scarecrows are arrayed around Sandal this week as a tribute to key workers who keep the rest of us going during the coronavirus pandemic.

The week-long display, entitled Scarecrow Salute to our Heroes, has been organised by Sandal Community Association, who have run annual scarecrow festivals for several years, although there was no plan for an event in 2020.

Instead residents have been invited to create their own key worker scarecrows and display them in their gardens. The SCA has produced a downloadable list of all those taking part so families can choose how they would like to walk the trail.

People have shown their usual inventiveness and entries range from doctors and nurses to binmen and posties.

SCA chairman Les Goddard said: “Following the wonderful display of rainbows and teddy bears around Sandal, a resident suggested we promote a fun scarecrow festival to keep families engaged and entertained as the lockdown continues. People have responded to the challenge in style.

“Having walked round and viewed all their efforts today, I’m in awe of residents’ resourcefulness. What they have found in their houses, garages and sheds to build scarecrows to ‘Salute our Heroes’ is truly amazing. This was undoubtedly the best day’s exercise I’ve had since lockdown began!”

The Scarecrow Salute runs until Sunday (May 31).
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Bible Image a Day 27th May No. 60

The Psalms are filled with luminous imagery:
“The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment”.11

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light.”12

“You are radiant with light, more majestic than mountains rich with game.”13

“Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.”14

There is an image which has scientific accuracy in advance of its time, describing God, “who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.”15 The speed of light cannot be exceeded, so if God dwells in light then he cannot be approached or surpassed. God exists beyond time and space.

The glory of God is revealed in the transfiguration of Jesus’ face, the brightness of his clothing, and the radiance of the enveloping cloud: “As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning."16

Jesus embodied the attributes of light; purity, truth, clarity, warmth, radiance, glory: “I am the light of the world.’17 He transfers that luminosity of spirit to us with a challenge: “You are the light of the world. You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.”18

Paul calls us to be “children of light’19, and to put on “the armour of light” 20.
John uses the metaphor of walking in the light: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.”21

Whether in poetry or prose, as physical images or metaphysical ideas, light permeates the imagery and theology of the Bible.
"For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”22

11 Psalm 104:2
12 Psalm 36:9
13 Psalm 76:4
14 Psalm 119:105
15 1 Timothy 6:16
16 Luke 9:29
17 Matthew 5:14
18 Matthew 5:14-15 The Message
19 Ephesians 5:8-9
20 Romans 13:12
21 1 John 1:7
22 2 Corinthians 4:6
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Bible Image a Day 26th May

Is light an image in itself, or something through which we see the world? Perhaps it is both, just as light is both a wave and a stream of particles. Whatever its nature, it is one of the most powerful images and metaphors in many religious texts as well as in the Bible.

Light denotes the essence of creation and the identity of Christ at the beginning of Genesis and John's Gospel:
“Out of the brooding nothingness, God said: let there be light and there was light."1
“The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.”2
Light kickstarts creation and redemption. Light also symbolises the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire.

Light is literally life-giving. Through photosynthesis, plants and trees oxygenise the planet. Light is metaphorically life-giving. Through Christ the world is illuminated.

Light is physical - made up of photons deflected by objects and whose wavelengths reflect different colours.
Light is metaphysical - representing abstract ideas such as love, goodness, purity and life itself.

Light can be outside us and within us:
“Light, too, encrusts us making visible
the motions of the mind.”3

Light has a practical and a moral significance. Light in which to see, and light by which to live.
“What came into existence was Life, and the Life was Light to live by.”4

Light is the means by which artists reveal truth, as the poet Robert Lowell writes:
“The painter’s vision is not a lens,
it trembles to caress the light.
Yet why not say what happened?
Pray for the grace of accuracy
Vermeer gave to the sun’s illumination
stealing like the tide across a map
to his girl solid with yearning.”5

Light reveals extremes of beauty and ugliness, but light and dark are not equal: “The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it.”6 John goes on to show how darkness is overcome by the light of Christ: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”7

John equates the betrayal by Judas with the coming of darkness. “With the piece of bread, Judas left. It was night.”8 In the other three Gospels the crucifixion is shrouded with darkness: “It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, for the sun stopped shining.”9

At the empty tomb the women see the supernatural light of an angel: “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow.”10

The appearance of Jesus to Saul on the road to Damascus is described as a blinding vision of light that outshone the noonday sun: “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me.”11 While he lost his physical sight for a time, Saul gained spiritual insight through the personal revealing of Jesus Christ in all his risen and ascended glory.

1 Genesis 1:3. The Message
2 John 1:9. The Message
3 Wallace Stevens, Evening without Angels
4 John 1:5
5 Robert Lowell, Epilogue, Day by Day, 1977,
6 John 1:4 The Message
7 John 8:12
8 John 13:30
9 Luke 23:44-45
10 Matthew 28:3
11 Acts 22:6, 9,11
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HANDS OF HOPE are up, greeting this bright day.

Hands applauding the dedication of all the front line workers we value so much.

Hands lifted in prayer to God who cares.

These hands were made by Jodie Gabriel with the children of Portobello during a recent Portobello Gala.
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HANDS OF HOPE are up, greeting this bright day.

Hands applauding the dedication of all the front line workers we value so much.

Hands lifted in prayer to God who cares.

These hands were made by Jodie Gabriel with the children of Portobello during a recent Portobello Gala.
... See MoreSee Less

HANDS OF HOPE are up, greeting this bright day. 

Hands applauding the dedication of all the front line workers we value so much. 

Hands lifted in prayer to God who cares.

These hands were made by Jodie Gabriel with the children of Portobello during a recent Portobello Gala.

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These look great well done and so "meaningful" just returned from our first walking tour.

Bible Image a Day 25th May

In this week leading up to Pentecost, some of the images - dove, light, wind, fire - will focus on the Holy Spirit.

In Piero della Francesca’s painting of the Baptism of Christ, fine droplets of gold emanate from the hovering dove’s beak, shimmering with the divine power of the Holy Spirit: “As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him.”1

Gerard Manley Hopkins captures the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit in his poem, God’s Grandeur:
“Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”2

The last line echoes the imagery of Genesis where God’s Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss.3 This imagery is echoed in the story of the flood, when a dove is sent out over the waters to discover if there is any trace of dry land. The image of the dove bearing an olive branch has become a symbol of peace and reconciliation; an image subverted by Banksy’s mural in Bethlehem of a dove in a flak jacket targeted by a sniper.

The dove is a symbol of the creative life of the Holy Spirit in its white purity, the gentleness of its cooing, the swooping freedom of its flight: “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest."4

The dove appears as an image of the fluttering eyes to the lovers in the Song of Songs:
“How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves.”5
“His eyes are like doves by the water streams, washed in milk, mounted like jewels.”6

The plangent sound of a dove makes it a poignant metaphor for grief:
“We all growl like bears; we moan mournfully like doves.
We look for justice, but find none.”7

Jesus uses the image of a dove as a metaphor for innocence when sending out the disciples: “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”8 Naivety needs to be counterbalanced by worldly wisdom.

The symbolic purity of doves meant that they became a sacrificial offering more affordable than the unblemished lamb: “Anyone who cannot afford a lamb is to bring two doves or two young pigeons to the Lord as a penalty for their sin – one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering.”9 Jesus was angered by those who took advantage of the devout poor when they came to sacrifice doves which had to be purchased using temple coins with interest in the temple courts: “To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’”10

The dove combines visual beauty and symbolic whiteness. Its gentle, cooing sound filled with longing inspired the composer of the music to Psalm 56: “For the director of music. To the tune of ‘A Dove on Distant Oaks’.”11

1 Matthew 3:16
2 Gerard Manley Hopkins
3 Genesis 1:2
4 Psalm 55:6
5 Song of Songs 4:1
6 Song of Songs 5:12
7 Isaiah 59:11
8 Matthew 10:16
9 Leviticus 5:7
10 John 2:16 The Message
11 Psalm 56
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