Families can be quite complicated, can’t they? Being the youngest of four boys in a wonderful family where everyone most definitely had an opinion, I remember quite clearly occasions when those ‘differences of opinion’ became quite vocal! We loved playing family board games, for example, but there was a period of a few years, when Monopoly had to be completely banned – if only the UN had had a HasbroTM peacekeeping wing!
Sibling rivalry is nothing new, of course, and predates even Snakes and Ladders.
You only have to read about Cain and Abel to see this tension taken to its devastating conclusion. And it reminds me of my incredible mum and dad, who amazingly kept us four boys on the straight and narrow (or as least as far as they were aware). I frequently remember my mum having to tell me or my older brothers to stop ‘stirring’ – which was a shame because winding each other up was a great pastime – especially when playing Monopoly, or Cluedo, or Trivial Pursuit or, indeed, anything!
I guess people generally don’t like ‘stirrers’ – those who stir up trouble for others, by emphasising differences, provoking hostilities, or just good old-fashioned teasing. But I think maybe there can be constructive ‘stirrers’ too – those we might in some contexts call ‘campaigners’ or perhaps even ‘prophets’; people prepared to challenge the status quo, to raise uncomfortable questions, and speak out against injustice, to try to stir people from apathy or ignorance into recognition and action.
‘Stir Up Sunday’, the name given to the last Sunday in November, marks a centuries-old annual tradition where cooks spend the last Sunday before Advent ‘stirring up’ their Christmas pudding preparing for the imminent feast. Of course, its deeper, truer origin comes from the fact that the Collect (or special prayer) for that day, in the old Prayer Book, began with the words: ‘Stir up, we beseech thee, O Lord, the wills of thy faithful people.’
It’s a good prayer. I guess that sense of being stirred from our slumber, from our apathy, or sense of inadequacy, or deafness to the cries of the least, the last and the lost, is a challenging but deeply important thing in these days.
This November as the days truly darken in all senses, may you be stirred into a new awakening of the love of God for you. And, following the old prayer, to make ourselves not just willing, but truly faithful in knowing Him, yielding to Him and making Him known to others.
Have a wonderful November.
Much love and prayers, Tim, Sarah, Ellie, Sam & Jo.
Priest in Charge Loves church pioneering, family, guitars, Macs, jeeps and Jesus, not necessarily in that order...