Pew Sermon for Sunday 9th October

Looking Back

Hello again.

There is a story about the Past, the Present and the Future walking into a pub, and ordering a drink at the bar.

There was silence. 

It was tense!

But that got me thinking. It’s sometimes useful to look back, and see and consider the past. This can help many people come to terms with the present. And that can help map out a way for the future.

In other words, considering ‘how did we get here’ can be helpful – if not overdone – to understand where we are, and where we are going.

But the past can also be something of a burden, and my view is sometimes to leave it precisely where it is. 

The sign language gesture for ‘yesterday’ is to brush your right hand finger lightly against the top of your right cheek, and then point over your right shoulder. I love it. It’s my favourite sign! (Except ‘Jesus’. And ‘Glory’.) (I keep changing my mind on favourites weekly – sorry!)

Many kind, good natured people, on first meeting me, feel the immediate need to compartmentalise, or label. Alas, we all do it – me included – it’s a way into the conversation. But it can be a dead end.

In my case, they probably can’t quite figure out the Indian appearance with the English accent. But naturally, they are far too polite to say so. So, they struggle to frame this in a pleasant opening conversational remark.

If they panic, it usually comes out as “Where are you from?”  I know what they mean, but when you’ve been asked that question for 67 years it can wear a little thin.

If I’m feeling a little bit mischievous, I might say “Aldershot”

If I am feeling a little bad-tempered, I might say “Greenford, Middlesex.” Where I was born. (Perivale Maternity Hospital, in fact. Sadly, it is no more – they turned it into a sports centre. I feel a sermon coming on…)

After all this, they will smile weakly and say ‘Oh, that’s nice’ (but in fact are completely baffled).

And if they are really thrown, they might follow that up with “Yes, but where are you really from?”

As if the geographic – or biological – or even philosophical – answer to the location of my conception, might give them the answer they want!

The late Queen Elizabeth II, God rest her soul, used to get round this problem by diplomatically asking people, in a solicitous voice, whether they had had far to come? Which I think is a superb way of getting round the problem.

This allows the other person the freedom to reply at any level they wish, and in whatever detail or simplicity they want. This avoids the labelling and the stereotyping by the questioner, and gives the other the freedom to be themselves, in that crucial and tricky moment of introduction.

Indeed, enabling the listener to ask answer your question in a manner that suits them, affords them dignity, and respect. And who knows, it might even extract more information from them, then asking the wrong question!

So where am I from really? Tune in next week, and I might tell you. If I am in a good mood…

May God bless us all, and keep us safe. Have a good week.


P.S. many are asking about the lupins! I won’t forget to bring you up to date on that also.