Sunday, 17 January 2010

Bits and pieces of inspiration

Sometimes it is not so bad to get older and to begin at last to know oneself a bit. Today I have had some time to catch up on a bit of reading, thinking and pottering around. It has been a very busy and emotional week in many and various ways and it has been good to have some normal time, sleeping in after a party for a friend, going to the market, shopping and drinking tea. Time to let go of some strains and stresses and live with some of the happiness and hope the week has brought - as well as the desperate tragedy unfolding in Haiti. No words really suffice for that, even though I tried.

Reading Ben Myers splendid Faith and Theology I realised that I shall never write a thological monograph (or even an article) but that I get enormous pleasure and inspiration from reading what others write and from encouraging them to write (I'm having some fun getting a group of young theologians to write about ecumenism at the moment - well actually getting them to deliver is really the issue currently!) It's good to encourage others to unlock their creativity. It was Ben's post about the spirituality of theology that triggered this realisation in me. Mine is a bits and pieces theology. The theology of the practioner, communicator, translator, liturgist and preacher not really of the lecturer or writer.

It has been of more theological importance this week to write "Pray for Haiti" on large strips of paper than to write a treatise on the future of ecumenism. Yet oddly this week of deeply practical editing, translating and liturgical work has also been one of totally gratuitous inspiration. Pure grace. Suddenly, while I was doing something else, a sermon called "mother tongue - foreign land" came into my mind and strangely it seems to be a bit about the future of ecumenism. As I now start to write it of course it doesn't seem to be quite so beautiful and luminous as it was during those first moments of perceiving how it could go, but it still excites me. This kind of inspiration hasn't really happened to me before - not quite so obviously anyway. No doubt by the time it is finished the sermon will even have a completely different title, but it will still have its origin in the moment in fron of my computer when I was checking the VAT!

That links to my final bit of inspiration for this evening. The role of language and mother tongue in inspiration. The sermon came to me in English and is about a far away land called home. When you spend your days playing and struggling with language it's interesting to see which langauge the Holy Spirit is speaking in today. I often say I have a mother tongue (English), a father tongue (German - my 3rd language) and a foreign language (French) which is my working language and my love. Twelve months ago I realised very painfully that I cannot bear to leave a context where I can speak French most of the time. So why if I dream in French does inspiration come this time in English?

Anyway, a bits and pieces theology is where I am and will remain I dare say. Bringing together prayers and Bible translation, song and academic reflection, inspiration and hard labour, thanksgiving and lamentation, spirituality and action. It's a fine place to be I just won't be writing any ground-breaking theology ... however I do still harbour some delusions about maybe writing a bit of detective fiction. We'll see how much older I have to get before I give up on that illusion as well!