Lay Anglicana, the unofficial voice of the laity throughout the Anglican Communion.
This is the place to share news and views from the pews.

Get involved ...

Easter 5: Perseverance

10 May 2009
Acts 8.26-40, John 15.1-8, Psalm 22.25-31 O God, my God

Most of us have days when life seems too much - how tempting it would be to give up all our commitments and responsibilities and simply flee to a desert island (does anyone know of one with perfect weather, no mosquitoes and a comfortable hotel?)

Like Sisyphus, we feel it is our lot in life to roll a boulder up to the top of a hill, knowing that it will only roll down again and force us to start again at the beginning.

Albert Camus, in 'La Peste' specifically compares his hero, Dr Rieux, to Sisyphus - Rieux' wearily summed up the human condition: an everlasting re-commencement

Perhaps W C Fields was right when he said:
If at first you don't succeed, try, and try again. Then give up. There's no sense in being a darn fool about it.

Perhaps we manage to stiffen our sinews by reciting Kipling:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'...
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

The problem with this is that getting the earth with everything that's in it seems likely only to increase our workload and ' being a Man' is an even less attractive proposition for at least half the world's population.

Thinking of female role models, what about Lady Macbeth?[I][INDENT]We fail? But screw your courage to the sticking place and we'll not fail. Act I Scene 7
Unfortunately, as the Shakespearean scholars among you will remember, the play was a tragedy at least in part because of our heroine's sticky end. Perhaps Winnie the Pooh is the best model, and all we need to do to keep going is to hum a little tune, perhaps with Harry Lauder:

Keep right on to the end of the road,
Keep right on to the end,
Though the way be long,
let your heart be strong,
Keep right on round the bend.

No wisecracks please about going round the bend being the problem that we began with. The point is:

What does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow, brother, of its sorrow, but ah! it empties today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil, it makes you unfit to cope with it if it comes.
Arthur W. Pink

The journalist John Derbyshire1 wrote this in the aftermath of 9/11:
My daily newspaper, the New York Post, gave over its Letters page on Saturday to readers' suggestions about how we should spend the anniversary of September 11th. Edward Every declares that he will "live the day as any other." I'm with Mr. Every on this. "Defiant normality" should be the watchword - or, as Winston Churchill used to say: KBO.
National Review 3 September 2002

And then there's Plutarch: Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little.

Mother Teresa had the following text, ' Anyway' by Kent Keith, on the wall of her children's home in Calcutta:

People are unreasonable, illogical and self-centred.
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.
The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.
People really need help but may attack you if you help them.
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;
It was never between you and them anyway.

In the spring of 1939, an anonymous civil servant was entrusted with finding the slogan for a propaganda poster intended to comfort and inspire the populace in the event of Nazi invasion. In the event, the poster, Keep Calm and Carry On, was never distributed and the message was all but forgotten until recently, when a copy was discovered in a box of books bought by a Northumberland bookseller. Rescued from obscurity after 70 years, the Ministry of Information's appeal for calm has now risen to cult status and thousands of copies have been sold across the world. You may be relieved or concerned to know that customers include 10 Downing Street and Buckingham Palace. The need to encourage others to keep going, and the need to be so encouraged ourselves, seems to run very deep.

The Queen is said to have a new mantra: Go with the flow: A Taoist story tells of an old man who fell into the river rapids leading to a huge waterfall of great power. Onlookers feared for his life but, miraculously, he emerged unharmed at the bottom of the falls. People asked him how he managed to survive. 'I accommodated myself to the water. Putting aside conscious thought, I allowed myself to be shaped by it. Plunging into the swirl, I came out with the swirl. This is how I survived'.

But we have been skating around the issue. The reason why we are all here this morning is that, for us, our best role model, and our best encouragement, comes from above. Sydney Carter, author of 'I am the Lord of the Dance',2 that splendid hymn about the ultimate persistence in the face of adversity wrote:

I see Christ as the incarnation of the piper who is calling us. He dances that shape and pattern which is at the heart of our reality. By Christ I mean not only Jesus; in other times and places, other planets, there may be other Lords of the Dance. But Jesus is the one I know of first and best. I sing of the dancing pattern in the life and words of Jesus. Whether Jesus ever leaped in Galilee to the rhythm of a pipe or drum I do not know. We are told that David danced (and as an act of worship too), so it is not impossible. The fact that many Christians have regarded dancing as a bit ungodly (in a church, at any rate) does not mean that Jesus did...The Shakers didn't...Dancing, for them, was a spiritual activity. Sometimes, for a change I sing the whole song in the present tense. 'I dance in the morning when the world is begun...'. It's worth a try.

I dance in the morning when the world is begun,
And I dance in the moon and the stars and the sun,
And I come down from heaven and I dance on the earth,
At Bethlehem I have my birth.
I dance for the scribe and the Pharisee,
But they will not dance and they will not follow me.
I dance for the fishermen, for James and John -
They come with me and the Dance goes on.
I dance on the Sabbath and I cure the lame;
The holy people say it is a shame.
They whip and they strip and they hang me on high,
And they leave me there on a Cross to die.
I dance on a Friday when the sky turns black -
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back.
They bury my body and they think I've gone,
But I am the Dance, and I still go on.
They cut me down and I leap up high;
I am the life that'll never, never die;
I'll live in you if you'll live in me -
I am the Lord of the Dance, says he.

1 Grateful thanks to John Derbyshire for allowing us to quote him as above.
2 Grateful acknowledgement to Stainer & Bell Ltd, London, England for permission to reproduce 'Lord of the Dance' and extract from interview with Sydney Carter on their website