Monday, May 3, 2010

The quality of mercy is not strained. It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven...

It's been more than half a year since I started playing my clarinet in the church ensemble.  I can see from my diary that I've been doing that since 11 October 2009 which is rather odd.  I had my previous church membership transferred to this church before I got married in 1991 and I only joined the ensemble 18 years later.

Not many turned up today.  Some were unwell and PO had to attend to his wife in hospital (glad to learn from him later tonight that she was all right).  TS came in with his thumb dripping in blood.  It was so bad that I felt faint!  He had slammed his car door on his thumb!  But he managed to bandage it and it was much better later.  Surprisingly, he remained in church and continued to play his trumpet.  I didn't realise the trumpet could be played without the left thumb but still, that spoke of his dedication.  If my toe had been similarly injured, I'd get myself rushed to the A&E.  Very few of us turned up today: YS (tuba), JW (horn), YC (trombone) and of course IR (trumpet).

Very few people realise how I dread having to sit through a sermon because I'm so terribly bored.  The truth is I can do a few things at one time and I normally read a book surreptitiously during sermon.  I can hear every word of the sermon and at the same time, I can read my book.  Nothing is lost and I believe I probably retain the sermon better than most parishioners.

Today, Wendy's sermon was on mercy.  She chose the analogy of Cordelia in King Lear.  That set me thinking.  As we all know, she did not really go into detail (she shouldn't - this was a sermon and not a Lit lecture!) but we must always bear in mind that the setting was very different in the play.  Lear asks each of his three daughters to speak of her love for him in the presence of State dignitaries that included the King of France and the Duke of Belgium (if my memory serves me well).  Each daughter appears to dutifully (but in fact hypocritically) profess love for him in glorious terms.  All except Cordelia.  And all Cordelia says is  "Nothing, my lord".  Imagine the embarrassment to Lear!

We think of Lear today as arrogant and vain.  Scholars talk about how he was insane in his sanity and sane in his subsequent insanity.

But we must look at everything in the context of history.  Of course Lear is just legendary but all ancient kings and rulers demanded PRAISE and ADORATION from the people.  What Cordelia did would have been considered intolerably wrong and in most cases, worthy of an execution.

The biblical idea of God is very much based on a king who demands praise and adoration.  That's what we do all the time in church.  We don't just fold our arms and say "Nothing, my Lord".

Does that make God exactly like King Lear?  Of course not!  Heaven forbid that I should ever blaspheme our God to whom all praise, adoration and glory belong!

Anyway, I had a good read and I heard every word of the sermon at the same time.  No harm killing two birds with one stone.

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