Hello. Welcome One, welcome all. I had a week off social media. You have to sometimes don’t you? We watched a lot of Olympics. It has been a bit marvellous I feel – despite the sneaking suspicion that it possibly should not have been happening at all. You have to feel a bit sorry for Japan – all that work (and money) and not one ticket sold. Still, it has been a welcome dose of normality in the middle of these trying times and possibly will mark the time when we began to turn a corner towards the next stage of life – those of us fortunate enough to live in a country that can afford the vaccination and the healthcare.
We had a week off work. That was also jolly good. We went to London for the day. I have to say that London is a completely different kettle of fish now than it was when we went a month ago. Paddington station was packed as was the Tube and, it seemed to be people from many lands, not just English people. Did we raise all the restrictions early? We went to a couple of exhibitions at the British Museum and they were excellent – if busy. I spent more time than I had anticipated pressed up against Nero’s bust.
The exhibition itself was very interesting. It re-evaluated the reputation that Nero has in history and how much his reputation as a murderous killer of family, friends and anyone who got in his way was influenced by other people who took control of the narrative by having his statues altered and making Christopher Biggins play him in I Claudius. They made a very convincing argument, except for the fact that they didn’t mention the Christians at all. And if Christians over the years have had a bit of a go at Nero’s reputation maybe that had something to do with all the using them as bait in the arena, wholesale arrests and blaming them for the great fire. That kind of thing is apt to make you a bit down on a person. It was certainly interesting to see all the good he did and the modernising but I would have preferred a bit more of a balanced view.
While we were the we also saw the Thomas Beckett exhibition. Also highly recommended. I am still that person who oohs and aahs when she is told that the thing in front of her is from the year 1180. In the past I have not been the biggest fan of the story of Thomas Becket and there is one person to thank for that – TS Elliot. He was the poet/playwright that was forced on us at A Level. Our English teacher said “You will either get him or you don’t”. I didn’t. I went to see “Murder in the Cathedral” and it dragged on for so long that I nearly ran forward and finished him off myself.
BUT the story is fascinating. Thomas Becket and King Henry were best friends. Thomas was Chancellor and worked hard to make sure that Henry got his dues from the church. Henry then made Thomas Archbishop of Canterbury. There is no suggestion that religion played any part in this decision. Henry wanted his own man on the inside to deal with the Pope. (This is my own summation. Do not call Simon Schama to check).
Then, well who knows what. What would we call it today? A religious conversion? Getting God? Being born again? Whatever you would call it, Thomas began to take his responsibilities as a man of God much more seriously and started to make sure that he wasn’t in when Henry came round with a few demands that he felt both men had agreed to before Thomas’s “promotion”. As well as this, he got all preachy with Henry and there is nothing more annoying than the newly converted telling you your business. Especially, I would imagine, when you are King and very few people feel secure enough point out the error of your ways. This did not end well for Thomas after the King sort of accidentally on purpose wondered out loud who would help him deal with this man and four soldiers with really big swords stepped in to help.
A cult grew up around the dead Archbishop and lots of healings happened in his name including a particularly interesting one where a man who had his testicles cut off after picking a fight in a tavern (think twice before you have that fifth shandy) had them restored to him in full working order. Look – don’t blame me, there’s a stained glass window commemorating it. Not really what you would expect in Canterbury cathedral I suppose. There are lots of relics of Thomas. Enough I would say to put together and make two or three people. As HOH said, “there are bits and bobs of him all over the place”.
Being brought up in a sparse, pared back kind of Christianity, I don’t really know what to think about the relics but I have been quite thoughtful about what sort of encounter with God Thomas had to change him so radically. He left all the power and the influence behind. Sometimes, I feel don’t feel enough of God’s influence in my life to make me open a Bible – never mind mixing it with the King of England. And the level of faith for miracles that I display doesn’t help me believe for a fraction of the things I think I should do – and certainly not for attaching someone’s bit and pieces back onto his body in full working order. (This is not a ministry I am hoping to develop by the way).
It made me think a bit. About who God is and about a faith made for grown ups that is important and life changing and worth going after.
“Don’t let the wise brag of their wisdom.
Don’t let heroes brag of their exploits.
Don’t let the rich brag of their riches.
If you brag, brag of this and this only:
That you understand and know me.
I’m God, and I act in loyal love.
I do what’s right and set things right and fair,
and delight in those who do the same things.
These are my trademarks.”