Without wishing to sound morbid, I recently found myself pondering on the themes of life and death. This was partly due to the time of the year when everything in creation appeared to be barren and bleak, although closer inspection showed signs of new life waiting to emerge. Partly because the devotional book I was reading was exploring the theme of the abundant life we can experience with Jesus, and partly because the daily newspaper to which I subscribe had a number of articles about death and dying, as well as reviews of books on this theme.
It was while reading a review that I discovered the poem entitled The Passionate Man’s Pilgrimage by Sir Walter Raleigh, which he wrote in 1618, the year he died (www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/174206). The themes in the first few lines, in many ways sum up the key ingredients of our faith and over the coming week we will look together at each one in turn.
“Give me my scallop shell of quiet,
My staff of faith to walk upon,
My scrip of joy, immortal diet,
My bottle of salvation,
My gown of glory, hope’s true gage,
And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.”
My scallop shell of quiet.
Living as we do, in the twenty first century where the pace of life is faster and the demands on our time and attention are more numerous than in the seventeenth century, we have even more need for quiet and stillness! Today I would like to invite you to find a shell, you may already have one in your possession, but if not find a picture/photograph of one (see www.dorsetgifts.com for images of shells).
When you have located a shell, sit down, close your eyes, and imagine that you are sitting on a beach in the warm sunshine. Gently breathe in the sea air and breathe out any cares or concerns that you may have on your mind. Continue with this for a few minutes.
Then, when you are ready, open your eyes and look carefully at your shell. Notice its size and shape, its colour and texture, its overall design. What does God want to convey to you through this example of his creation?
Now consider what it might have been like to be the creature that once inhabited the shell. Imagine the sort of existence it had, and its purpose.
The shell provided a ‘home’ and protection for its inhabitant. Consider now how God has provided these for you.
In the silence reflect on the thoughts, images, and impressions that have come to you through this meditation and think about how you might encourage those around you, with the insights you have gained from this meditation on the shell.