Friday 10 April 2020

Rev Keith McNicol

Keith was Curate at All Saints’ and in the Team from 1992 to 1995.  In 1992 he and Kirsty, his wife moved over to the Church of England from the United Reformed Church in which Keith had been a minister for some twenty years.  They have two sons who were confirmed in Whitstable.  One is now married to the daughter of a Presbyterian Minister working in Idaho.  Both men live and work in London.  Keith misses his yacht in which the family had many interesting adventures.  He has been retired from full-time ministry for nearly six years but enjoys conducting services in and around Whitstable and Canterbury.  He likes listening to good music and keeping up with friends.
Keith writes:

Words are not enough

I have enjoyed seeing and reading the many Christian statements of hope during lockdown.  Basically, these words say, God is in charge and this corona virus pandemic will come to an end.  Some of the statements are very personal.  All are protests of determination against an unseen enemy.  The virus will be defeated. It will not last forever.

So, I cut the grass, go for a walk or a cycle ride once each day, read and write on my laptop.  I pray.  I read some Old Testament history because I am fascinated by it.  I look at the excellent and dedicated work of our local clergy and Readers in reading morning and evening prayer and preparing video/online services for us.  Personally, I worked to get my head around the technology so that I could deliver a short set of prayers to the Sea Cadets on the Isle of Sheppey to whom I am Chaplain.  I succeeded!

Now here’s the thing.  Words are pretty good.  They help express my deepest thoughts, my greatest fears, my fondest hopes.  I heard a brilliant bit of radio the other morning in which a lady spoke, fluently and uninterrupted, for a good few minutes, telling the radio presenter of her experience of her husband being taken into an Intensive Care Unit.  It was most moving and we all wish that family well.  Her words were descriptive, touching, compelling.  We had to listen to her.  She didn’t hesitate once with an “err” or a clearing of the throat.

But I suspect that lady would agree that even her words were not enough to fully express everything that was in her mind even though she was profound in the expression of her love for her man and her worry for him. 

We have read and heard some wonderful words from our clergy, and yet even their words are not enough.  Somehow there is more to be said. 

Some of our deepest thoughts simply cannot be expressed in words.  Symbols point to truths beyond yet within us, truths about the human condition and truths about the divine, the more than human, to whom we reach out hoping to touch but never quite doing so.  We have our hopes and strengths and aims for life.  Do you know, it came as an enormous surprise to me to be told that I should self-isolate because I am over the age of 70?  And I am doing what I am told!  I was a good boy at school – most of the time.  But my age is not what defines me.  

There is more to me than an age, a physical condition, a mental condition, an identity.  I am within and part of something far greater than I can imagine.

Words are never enough to say what is in one’s mind.  So, you and I live by wonderful stories expressed in words, symbols and other ways.  Indeed, we are living in the story.

Our privilege and duty is to be the people who keep the story of Jesus alive.  We pray, we read scripture.  Some of us study theology.  You and I are the privileged and responsible ones.  We are to live the story, no matter what happens to us, whether we live or die.  Our story is a story that tells us that there is more to life than life.  It is a story that points to a truth about the origin of all things that is founded by the great source of love we call God.  It is a story we tell to others too, not because we expect people to accept what we say as truth, but to encourage and strengthen everyone we know as we go through life.  I find that many of my friends want me to tell the story even though they don’t want to become part of the story.

And even now, words are never enough to be exact and final in our definition of this Love, this God. 
Words, even music and other arts are not enough to celebrate the Resurrection of Our Lord.  They are not enough to express our experience the power of God’s Spirit.  Some say he comes to us from time to time.  I say we are surrounded by the Spirit, that we live in the Spirit. 

I am sure the Good Lord knows our predicament.  For Christians, the Word of God is Jesus Our Lord.  Even our best words are not enough to say who Jesus is.  Yet it is our faith that, in this time of trouble, even in this time when people are dying, surely when people have recovered from the virus, Jesus the Word is enough for us to trust in and in whom to place our hopes and fears.

He knows, you see.  He knows because of the cross.  The Resurrection is his tremendous gift of hope to us.  He knows.  He loves us.  He is with us even though we walk through deep shadows or have to cope with wonderful shining light.  He knows.  He is the Word.  He most definitely is Enough.

Keith McNicol
Good Friday 2020

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