This blog comes to you from the Suffolk coast, from the picturesque town of Aldeburgh, where we are staying with old friends Sandy and Annette Millar.
Sandy and I were at theological college together all those years ago, at Cranmer Hall, Durham. And Sandy invariably introduces me as the person who got him through his exams! (I did).
Given that Sandy was to become the vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton, the church which gave us the Alpha course as well as Archbishop Justin, that it was me who got him through his exams has to be the one single defining event in my life.
No doubt this will be how posterity will remember me. (Oh yes, Ross Moughtin – wasn’t he the bloke who got Sandy Millar through his exams?)
Here I will join a select band of people remembered for one single event, just one defining moment.
Such as John George Hughes, who for seven years, 1987 – 1994, was the Bishop of Kensington. His Wikipedia entry recalls just one single event from (I assume) his illustrious career.
His claim to fame was that he was the one who rejected Justin for ordination, who told the future Archbishop of Canterbury: “There is no place for you in the Church of England.”
History overflows with people who are remembered just for one single, simple defining moment. Like Ivan Vaughan.
Ivan Vaughan? He was the person who introduced Paul McCartney to John Lennon at the St. Peter’s Church fête in Woolton on 6 July, 1957. A plaque now marks the spot. I’ve seen it.
I’m quite sure Ivan had no idea that he was about to change the course of world history (I exaggerate for effect) but he gets his own Wikipedia entry as a result, just like Bishop John.
Right up there, at the top of the roll of honour for those remembered for one single event, has to be Rosa Parks, of Montgomery, Alabama. Her simple act of defiance, on 1 December, 1955, refusing to give up her seat in the coloured section of the bus to a white passenger, changed an entire nation. “I would have to know once and for all what rights I had as a human being and as a citizen.” Fittingly 1 December is now a US public holiday.
The Bible is filled with men and women who in the course of their lives did just one thing to guarantee their entry into scripture.
Like the young boy who gave up his five loaves and two fishes to Jesus. Certainly little did he know the significance of what he was about to do.
Just a simple reflex in a situation of need, as he responded to an appeal from Jesus. And today he appears in all four Gospels.
Others were just in the wrong (i.e. right) place, at the wrong (i.e. right) time. Like the father of Alexander and Rufus. He had only just arrived in Jerusalem from the country and next moment he is carrying the cross for Jesus.
Maybe just 20 minutes of effort and he takes his place in history. This time we know his name: Simon of Cyrene.
I guess most people would not have realized the significance of what they were about to do. In some cases they may even have forgotten they ever did what they will be remembered for!
Pontius Pilate not only enters scripture but gets a mention in the creeds. And yet in Anatole France’s story “The Procurator of Judaea,” Pilate on retiring to Sicily “remembered the various slights of the Jews, yes, and the way they had clung to him and badgered him for favours; he remembered silk dresses, dancing girls. But ‘Jesus? Jesus of Nazareth? I don’t remember him.”’
I guess the question for all of us is what single event will we be best remembered for? Are we willing to lend Jesus our best donkey. Or even, like ‘the woman of the city,’ break that alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard?
So Jesus predicted: “You can be sure that wherever in the whole world the Message is preached, what she has just done is going to be remembered and admired.” (Matthew 26:13)
Whatever, it is a case of being available and alert. You just never know who may ask to borrow your favourite revision book two days before Finals?
So Jesus concludes his parable of the sheep and the goats: “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?”
You just never know.