Monday, 25 January 2010

Conflicts, Caravaggio, and The Wesley Pulpit

Sunday was a Bedford day, with a service at Cotton End in the morning, at which I was invited to preach on James 4 as part of a series, 'Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from?' That was fun!

In the evening I was the guest preacher at the All Bedford Churches Together Service for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity . The passage for this occasion was The Road to Emmaus, which happens to be a favourite, especially in the light of an experience I had whilst on sabbatical two years ago, which I recounted to the congregation.

I read a wonderful novel by Salley Vickers, The Other Side of You.  Central to the plot was the story of ‘The Supper at Emmaus’, and more specifically, the painting by Caravaggio that hangs in the National Gallery.  I visited a number of different galleries, but I will never forget sitting in front of Caravaggio’s painting and looking at it, really looking at it.  A group came along with a guide, and she very helpfully pointed out some fascinating features of the painting.  But then she said, ‘You need to look at this and appreciate that this is the split second before Christ disappears from their sight’.  And something happened for me, call it ‘the light coming on’, or an epiphany, but I was deeply touched, and also entered a new dimension of experiencing art.  

It was a good evening with excellent singing by the choir of St Paul's Bedford, supplemented from other churches, and splendid organ playing. But what made it that bit more special was to preach from the so-called Wesley Pulpit, which is where John Wesley preached the Assize sermon before the Honorable Sir Edward Clive, Knight, one of the Judges of His Majesty's Court of Common Pleas, on Friday, March 10, 1758, on the theme, 'We shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ', from Rom. 14.10. 

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